Despite its basic belonging to the Byzantine world, Serbian medieval art does not present a unitary development, due to the diversity of the cultures of origin and the continuous and varied intertwining of the influences of the neighboring regions. The important late ancient (Singidunum, Naissus, Sirmium) and proto-Byzantine (Iustiniana Prima) settlements were destroyed by the Slavic invasions, and the first important monuments belong to the second half of the 12th century. The architectures, almost exclusively churches and monasteries, show Romanesque forms alongside the Byzantine matrix: St. Nicholas in Kuršumlija (1168 ca.); church of Ðurđevi Stupovi near Ras (second half of the 12th century); churches of the monasteries of Studenica (1190-96), Žiča (1207-19), Sopoćani (c. 1262) and Dečani (1325-37). In the area closest to Macedonia while predominating in the 14th century. the Byzantine cross type with 5 domes, there is a tendency to strengthen the wall masses and to lengthen the cross of the plant (church of the Bogorodica Ljeviska in Prizren, 1307; Gračanica, c. 1320). In the northernmost part of the Serbia, the architecture of the “Morava school” (late 14th-early 15th century) presents the triconch solution (churches of Ravanica, c. 1375; of Kruševac, c. 1380, and of Manasija, 1407-18), taken from the monasteries of Mount Àthos, including the Serbian one of Chiliandari. After the loss of independence, the center of gravity of Serbian culture shifts to Hungary, where at the end of the 16th century. and in the 17th century numerous monasteries were built on Fruška Gora.
The sculpture, connected exclusively to architecture, appears in Rascia with typically Romanesque forms: portals and windows of the church of the Virgin in Studenica (1190-96), inspiration for other later stone churches (S. Stefano in Banjska, 1314; church of the Savior in Dečani, 1325-37). Greater affinity with the Byzantine ornamental decoration, of less plasticity, is found in the southern Serbia and above all in the later architectures of the “Morava school” (in addition to the decorations of the aforementioned churches of Ravanica, Kruševac and Manasija, notable those of the church of Kalenić, 1413-17).
In addition to the icons, there are many monumental pictorial decorations which, even in the context of Byzantine art, reveal original trends. The grave monumentality of the frescoes in the church of the Virgin of Studenica (from 1208) recalls the Byzantine tradition of the 11th century. (as in the monastery of Žiča, of St. George near Novi Pazar). The frescoes in the church of the Ascension in Mileševo (1236), founded by Ladislao I as a family mausoleum, reveal a strong relationship with the classical Constantinopolitan tradition; a surprising psychological penetration emerges in the faces of the sovereigns (in Serbian art the portrait is a constant feature). The highest pictorial work of the 13th century. it is the decoration of the church of the Trinity of Sopoćani. Since the beginning of the 14th century. the influence of paleological art is evident (Prizren, 1306-09; church of Milutin, c. 1313, in Studenica; Dečani, 1335). In the Morava valley the most significant frescoes are found in Ravanica (1376-77) and in Manasija (1407-18).
The modern era of Serbian art has its beginnings in the mid-18th century, and is identified with a break with tradition, especially in painting which, due to Western influence, follows a development from the late Baroque (T. Kračun ; T. Češljar), through classicism (A. Teodorović; P. Ðurković; K. Danil; N. Aleksić; K. Ivanović) and a patriotic romanticism, inspired by popular themes and national struggle (P. Simić; N. Radonić; Serbia Todorović), realism (M. Tenković; Ð. Krstić; U. Predić; P. Jovanović), impressionism (M. Milovanović ; N. Petrović), cubism, futurism, surrealism.
In sculpture I. Meštrović also had a great influence in Serbia (Monument to the Unknown Soldier on Avala, Belgrade). The architecture flourishes again in the late 19th century. and the beginning of the 20th century, imitating Renaissance and Baroque motifs (KK Jovanović; A. Bugarski) or referring to the models of ancient Serbian and Byzantine art (S. Ivačković; V. Nikolić). After the Second World War the principles of constructivism and functionalism were established in architecture. Among the most recent works, the Memorial on Mount Ravna Gora stands out, with an auditorium and library (2000) and, in the field of visual arts, a participation in the new Western languages.