Abstract Art

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Abstract Art

Modern Art – art created from the 19th century. mid-20th cent. by artists who veered away from traditional concepts and techniques of painting, sculpture and other fine arts that has been practiced since the Renaissance (see Renaissance art and architecture). Almost all phases of modern art was initially received by the public ridicule, but as the shock wore off, the various movements settled into history, influencing and inspiring new generations of artists.

Origins of Modern Art

In the second half of the 19th century. painters began to revolt against the classic codes of composition, careful execution, harmonious coloring, and heroic subject. Patronage of church and state sharply declined at the same time as the views of artists became more independent and subjective. Artists such as Courbet, Corot and others of the Barbizon School, Manet, Degas and Toulouse-Lautrec chose to paint scenes of everyday life and ordinary night, which often offended the sense of decorum of their contemporaries.


Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and the great masters of impressionism, painted café and city life, as well as landscapes, usually working directly from nature and using new modes of representation. While art has always been to some abstract measure that formal considerations had frequently been of primary importance, painters, beginning with the impressionists in the 1870s, welcomed the new freedom in the key. They made random spots of color and encrusted the canvas with strokes that do not always correspond to the object they reflect, but that formed coherent internal relationships. Thus began a definite separation of the image and object. The impressionists exploited the range of the color spectrum, directly applying strokes of pure pigment on canvas rather than mixing colors on the palette. In sculpture, dynamic forms and variations of impressionism were created by Rodin, Renoir, Degas, and Italian Medardo Rosso.

Nineteenth-Century Painting after Impressionism

In the 1880s, Seurat and Signac developed the more detailed and systematic approach of neo-impressionism, while Van Gogh and Gauguin, using bold masses, gave the color of an unprecedented enthusiasm and emotional intensity (see Post-Impressionism). At the same time, Cézanne painted subtler nuances of tone and sought to achieve greater structural clarity. Flout the laws of perspective, he extracted geometrical forms from nature and created radically new spatial patterns of landscapes and still lifes. Other important innovations of the late 19th cent. can be seen clearly in the tables of the Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch and the vivid fantasies of the Belgian James Ensor. In the 1890s the Nabis developed pictorial ideas from Gauguin, while sinuous linear decorations were produced throughout Europe by the designers of Art Nouveau.

Isms of the early twentieth century art

Since the early 20th cent. color reigned and invaded the contours of recognizable objects with the brilliant patterns of Fauvism (1905-8), dominated by Matisse and Rouault in France, Orphism of Robert Delaunay and Frank Kupka, and the explosive hues of the German group Die Brücke, which included such practitioners of expressionism as Kirchner and Nolde. Kandinsky transformed (circa 1910) of color in a completely abstract art absolutely separate matter. The wild and expressionistic shared an appreciation of pure form and simplified various examples of primitive art, an enthusiasm that was generated by Gauguin and extended to Picasso, Brancusi, Modigliani, Derain, and others.


About 1909 the implications of Cézanne highly organized yet revolutionary spatial structures were expanded by Picasso and Braque, who invented an abstract art of still lifes converted into volumes and travel plans. Cubism, developed by the artists of the School of Paris, passed through several stages and has an enormous influence on European and American painting and sculpture.

In sculpture its notable exponents included Picasso, Duchamp-Villon, Lipchitz, González, and Archipenko, who began to realize the possibilities of convex and concave volumes. Cubism was absorbed in Italy by the proponents of futurism (c.1909-c.1915) and in Germany by the Blaue Reiter group (1911-14), these two movements have been curtailed by the advent of World War I. Fauvism Cubism and I. have been introduced by members of the Eight to a generally shocked American audience in the Armory Show of 1913, and since the Americans began to participate significantly in the development of modern art (see American art ).

Geometric Abstraction

At about the same time as cubism was developing, Russia made extraordinary contributions to the current non-figurative art. The sculptors Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner joined the movement known as constructivism (c.1913-c.1921), and the painter Casimir Malevich founded Suprematism (1913). In Holland, the group De Stijl (1917-1931), including Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg, created a discipline, non-objective art. These Russian and Dutch developments in the second decade of the 20th century. were applicable to many varieties of art and industrial design, and their principles converged in the teachings of the Bauhaus in the 1920s. Kandinsky, Paul Klee, the highly imaginative, and the American Lyonel Feininger were among the famous exponents of the Bauhaus.

Other modes of Modern Art

A more fanciful sort of modern art was created by Jean Arp, Marcel Duchamp and Kurt Schwitters in the irreverent manifestations of the Dada movement. Dada artists developed “ready-mades” and collage objects from various pieces of equipment. The movement was linked with Freudianism in the 1920s, producing the wild imagery of surrealism and realism, as seen in paintings of Salvador Dalí, Yves Tanguy, Max Ernst and Joan Miró. The 1920s also saw the beginning of an art of social protest by representatives of New Objectivity, including George Grosz, Otto Dix and Max Beckmann. With the rise of fascism and the Great Depression of the 1930s, the protest has grown in intensity. The Mexicans Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros and murals in which the human figure has been monumental and heroic (see Mexican art and architecture) .

After the war of Modern Art and the rejection of modernism

The development of a movement of new American art was held in abeyance until the Second World War when the U.S. took the lead in the formation of a vigorous new art known as abstract expressionism with driven by such artists as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Action painting, the movement was also known, made its impact felt across the world in the 1950s. A number of notable advances were led by artists associated with these artists and New York to another school. As the influence of abstract expressionism diminished in the 1960s, artists came to question the very philosophy underlying modernism. A variety of new movements and styles came to dominate the art world that, in aggregate, can now be seen to mark the beginnings of artistic postmodernism and the changing post-modern mid-century of contemporary art.

Modern Sculpture

In sculpture the explorations of Julio González led to abstract configurations of welded metal that can be seen in the work of Americans such as David Smith, Theodore Roszack, Seymour Lipton and Herbert Ferber. This tradition has been a durable and contemporary examples of large abstract compositions of welded metal can be found in the work of many later sculptors, including Mark di Suvero and Beverly Pepper.

Alexander Calder largely kept apart from other modernist sculptors with his brightly colored stabile and mobile, which have since been widely influential, as in the large brightly colored sculpture of Albert Paley. Meanwhile, the tradition of early 20th century Brancusi’s organic abstract forms was used inventiveness at midcentury by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth in England, and Jean Arp in France, while the Swiss Alberto Giacometti and the Italians Giacomo and Marino Marini Manzù each achieved a distinctive sculptural style. Later 20th-century sculpture has followed the trends of various art movements of post-modern and is described in the article on contemporary art.

Art Styles

Abstract Art
Abstract Expressionism
Art Deco
Art Nouveau
Baroque Art & Painting
Cubism & Cubist Theory
Frida Kahlo and Her Art
Landscape Painting
Leonardo Da Vinci
Modern Art
Photography in Art
Pop Art
Surrealism in Art
Symbolism in Art