Terms originated to describe architectural periods were often subsequently applied to other areas of the visual arts, and then more widely still to music, literature and the general culture.
In architecture stylistic change often follows, and is made possible by, the discovery of new techniques or materials, from the Gothic rib vault to modern metal and reinforced concrete construction.
Cubism on the other hand was a conscious identification made by a few artists; the word itself seems to have originated with critics rather than painters, but was rapidly accepted by the artists.
Western art, like that of some other cultures, most notably Chinese art, has a marked tendency to revive at intervals "classic" styles from the past.
Style is seen as usually dynamic, in most periods always changing by a gradual process, though the speed of this varies greatly, between the very slow development in style typical of Prehistoric art or Ancient Egyptian art to the rapid changes in Modern art styles.
Style often develops in a series of jumps, with relatively sudden changes followed by periods of slower development.
In critical analysis of the visual arts, the style of a work of art is typically treated as distinct from its iconography, which covers the subject and the content of the work, though for Jas Elsner this distinction is "not, of course, true in any actual example; but it has proved rhetorically extremely useful".
and though Renaissance and Baroque writers on art are greatly concerned with what we would call style, they did not develop a coherent theory of it, at least outside architecture.
Divisions within both types of styles are often made, such as between "early", "middle" or "late".
In some artists, such as Picasso for example, these divisions may be marked and easy to see, in others they are more subtle.
By style he selects and shapes the history of art".
Style is often divided into the general style of a period, country or cultural group, group of artists or art movement, and the individual style of the artist within that group style.
Hegel is often attributed with the invention of the German word Zeitgeist, but he never actually used the word, although in Lectures on the Philosophy of History, he uses the phrase der Geist seiner Zeit (the spirit of his time), writing "no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his own spirit." Constructing schemes of the period styles of historic art and architecture was a major concern of 19th-century scholars in the new and initially mostly German-speaking field of art history, with important writers on the broad theory of style including Carl Friedrich von Rumohr, Gottfried Semper, and Alois Riegl in his Stilfragen of 1893, with Heinrich Wölfflin and Paul Frankl continuing the debate in the 20th century.