The history of art can be seen as a progression from one cultural idea to another. Just as the art of the early Roman Empire was influenced by Etruscan art and later Greek art, the artwork of today has been influenced by all of the other cultures that preceded it (Hemingway, 2012). In order to understand the progression of art from one culture to another, one must examine the ideals that the culture stood for at its height. When one examines modern art and architecture, it is easy to see the influence of Roman ideology.
Roman art could be divided into two different categories. The art of the common people reflected the many different civilizations that the Romans came in contact with over the development of the Empire. However, the official part of the Roman Empire was that which was produced by leaders and rulers in order to convey a certain political ideal or to make a statement (Thompson, Blum, Norris, and Watts, 2007). It is this art that is had the greatest influence on modern art today. The best way to examine the influence of Roman art on modern art is through example.

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One of the best examples of the influence of Roman art on modern art is the use of the heads of leaders on coinage (Thompson, Blum, Norris, and Watts, 2007). In ancient Rome, one could find the head of the current leader on the coinage of the time, just as one can find the head of President Lincoln on a penny (Thompson, Blum, Norris, and Watts, 2007). The use of Roman columns and building structures in painting and in the art of architecture are another example of the influence of Roman art on modern art.

When compared to ancient art, such as that of the ancient Roman empire, modern art can be viewed as more expressive (Celine, 2012). Ancient art tended to be a more realistic depiction of the subject matter but one can still find many interpretive art pieces throughout the Roman Empire involving animals and plants. When one examines the statues and busts of leaders, they are a realistic interpretation of the person, but in some cases the proportions were changed to make them appear more dignified or youthful.

The influence of one art form on another, when described as a progression of time, makes this influence appear to be a natural occurrence and unintentional on the part of the artist. However, in some cases the art forms that influence each other are located in a different time and space and do not reflect a linear and logical progression. This is the phenomenon that can be seen when one examines the concept of “revival” art. When one examines art eras such as Greek revival, or Roman revival, it becomes apparent that this was an intentional introduction of the elements of the ancient art form into the modern world (Danto, 2014). Revival art becomes a remake of the original art, but not an exact reproduction of it.

Art must be understood in the context of the culture that produced it (Elsner, 2007). When a modern artist uses elements of Roman art, they are often doing so not only to reawaken the lines and artistic elements of the piece, but it can also be a way to reintroduce the ideals and context surrounding the piece as well (Elsner, 2007). The grandeur of the Roman Empire has influenced many modern artists when they want to recapture the grand scale and advances that the Roman Empire represents. The Roman Empire can be seen as a symbol of power and durability because of its ability to withstand the test of time and to become one of the most influential civilizations in the history of the world. When modern art captures elements of Roman art, it is recalling these facets of Roman culture and life. The influence of Roman art can be seen in many buildings and art pieces of today.

  • Celine (2012). “Differences Between Modern Art and Ancient Art.” Retrieved from
  • Danto, A. (2014). After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Elsner, J. (2007). Roman Eyes: Visuality & Subjectivity in Art & Text. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.
  • Hemingway, S. (2012). Art of the Aegean Bronze Age. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. 69 (4): 1-52.
  • Thompson, N., Blum, F., Norris, M. and Watts, E. (2007). Roman Art: A Resource for Educators. New York, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art.