The temple culture period (3800-2500 B.C.) provides the earliest known artistic manifestations on the island. Subsequently, classical ideas and taste were introduced into the local scenario during the Roman presence.
With the advent of Christianity began the development of a significant corpus of Christian artistic heritage. The earliest manifestations have distinct eastern characteristics. On the other hand, the old capital of Mdina, became a focal point for the development of a Latin culture.This manifests itself as early as the brief Angevin presence in the second half of the thirteenth century. This artistic experience was augmented during the successive Aragonese period. Nonetheless, the traditional and political link with mainland Sicily remained important enough for the introduction of the Siculo-Norman style. The small chapel dedicated to the Annunciation at Hal Millieri is an example of this Siculo-Norman influence. The Early Renaissance style was also introduced through this channel thanks to the works of Sicilian artists working in this idiom.
The most important contribution by the Order of St. John can be perhaps identified in the building of the new City of Valletta after the Ottoman siege of 1565. Within this fitting venue are housed numerous artistic expressions. Mannerist works were produced for the Conventual church and the Magisterial Palace. However, the brief stay and artistic activity of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1573-1610) on the island by this artist testify to a high point, which is of relevance in the unfolding of the European artistic scenario itself. Nonetheless, the impact of Mattia Preti (1613 -1699) on the local scenario is perhaps more widespread stylistically. Preti was patronised not only by the Order but also by the local churches.
The sculptural tradition of the seventeenth century is best represented by the works of Melchiorre Gafa (1635 -1667) whose artistic production in Rome made an impact on the evolution of the late Roman Baroque artistic idiom. The local school also produced important names such as Stefano Erardi (1630 -1716) and Francesco Zahra (1710 -1773).
The Brotherhood of St. Luke and the artistic idiom of the Roman based artist Tommaso Minardi (1781-1871) are the two major artistic idioms to dominate nineteenth century art in Malta. The subsequent generation of artists is best represented by the significant contribution of Giuseppe Cali (1846 -1930) and Lazzaro Pisani (1856 -1932).The contribution of these two artists is most accessible in numerous parish churches. Both however excelled in portraiture. With the opening of the Government School of Art in 1928, links with the Roman Academy were given a new lease of life. The studio of the Maltese sculptor Antonio Sciortino in Rome also provided an important source of support to maltese art students in Rome.
Thanks to the Government School of Art and the subsequent interaction of some of its students with the major artistic currents of the period was to emerge the modern Maltese Art movement. This movement nowadays includes a number of internationally acclaimed artists who are earnestly pursuing their creative paths.