Sei sulla pagina 1di 37

Abstract art

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wassily Kandinsky, Kandinsky's first abstract watercolor, 1910.

Robert Delaunay, 191213, Le Premier Disque, 134 cm (52.7 in.), Private collection.

Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to
create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence
from visual references in the world.[1] Western art had been, from
theRenaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the
logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible
reality. The arts of cultures other than the European had become
accessible and showed alternative ways of describing visual experience
to the artist. By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to

create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental


changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The
sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical arguments
were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in
all areas of Western culture at that time.[2]
Abstract art, non-figurative art, non-objective art, and
nonrepresentational art are loosely related terms. They are similar, but
perhaps not of identical meaning.
Abstraction indicates a departure from reality in depiction of imagery in
art. This departure from accurate representation can be slight, partial, or
complete. Abstraction exists along a continuum. Even art that aims for
verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least
theoretically, since perfect representation is likely to be exceedingly
elusive. Artwork which takes liberties, altering for instance color and form
in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total
abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognizable.
In geometric abstraction, for instance, one is unlikely to find references
to naturalistic entities. Figurative art and total abstraction are
almost mutually exclusive. But figurative
andrepresentational (or realistic) art often contains partial abstraction.
Both geometric abstraction and lyrical abstraction are often totally
abstract. Among the very numerous art movements that embody partial
abstraction would be for instance fauvism in which color is conspicuously
and deliberately altered vis-a-vis reality, and cubism, which blatantly
alters the forms of the real life entities depicted.[3][4]
Contents
[hide]
1History
o 1.1Abstraction in early art and many cultures
o 1.219th century
o 1.320th century
o 1.4Music

o 1.5Russian avant-garde
o 1.6The Bauhaus
o 1.7Abstraction in Paris and London
o 1.8America: mid-century
2Abstraction in the 21st century
3Causation
4Gallery
5See also
6References
7Sources
8External links

History[edit]
Main articles: History of painting and Western painting

Abstraction in early art and many cultures[edit]


Main articles: Prehistoric art and Eastern art history
Much of the art of earlier cultures signs and marks on pottery, textiles,
and inscriptions and paintings on rock was simple, geometric and
linear forms which might have had a symbolic or decorative purpose.[5] It
is at this level of visual meaning that abstract art communicates.[citation
needed]
One can enjoy the beauty of Chinese calligraphy or Islamic
calligraphy without being able to read it.[6]

19th century[edit]
Main articles: Romanticism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism,
and Expressionism
Three art movements which contributed to the development of abstract
art were Romanticism, Impressionism andExpressionism. Artistic

independence for artists was advanced during the 19th century.


Patronage from the church diminished and private patronage from the
public became more capable of providing a livelihood for artists.[citation needed]

James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Black and Gold: The Falling


Rocket(1874), Detroit Institute of Arts. A near abstraction, in 1877 Whistler sued the
art critic John Ruskin for libel after the critic condemned this painting. Ruskin
accused Whistler of "ask[ing] two hundred guineas for throwing a pot of paint in the
public's face."[7][8]

Early intimations of a new art had been made by James McNeill


Whistler who, in his painting Nocturne in Black and Gold: The falling
Rocket, (1872), placed greater emphasis on visual sensation than the
depiction of objects. An objective interest in what is seen, can be
discerned from the paintings of John Constable, J M W Turner,Camille
Corot and from them to the Impressionists who continued the plein
airpainting of the Barbizon school. Paul Czanne had begun as an
Impressionist but his aim to make a logical construction of reality
based on a view from a single point,[9] with modulated colour in flat areas
became the basis of a new visual art, later to be developed
into Cubism by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso.
Expressionist painters explored the bold use of paint surface, drawing
distortions and exaggerations, and intense color. Expressionists
produced emotionally charged paintings that were reactions to and
perceptions of contemporary experience; and reactions
to Impressionism and other more conservative directions of late 19th-

century painting. The Expressionists drastically changed the emphasis


on subject matter in favor of the portrayal of psychological states of
being. Although artists likeEdvard Munch and James Ensor drew
influences principally from the work of thePost-Impressionists they were
instrumental to the advent of abstraction in the 20th century.

Henri Matisse, The Yellow Curtain, 1915. With his Fauvist color and drawing Matisse
comes very close to pure abstraction.

Additionally in the late 19th century in Eastern Europe mysticism and


earlymodernist religious philosophy as expressed by theosophist Mme.
Blavatsky had a profound impact on pioneer geometric artists
like Wassily Kandinsky, and Hilma af Klint. The mystical teaching
of Georges Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky also had an important
influence on the early formations of the geometric abstract styles of Piet
Mondrian and his colleagues in the early 20th century.[10]

20th century[edit]
Main articles: Western painting, Fauvism, and Cubism
Post Impressionism as practiced by Paul Gauguin, Georges
Seurat, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Czanne had an enormous impact
on 20th-century art and led to the advent of 20th-century abstraction.
The heritage of painters like Van Gogh,Czanne, Gauguin,
and Seurat was essential for the development of modern art. At the

beginning of the 20th century Henri Matisse and several other young
artists including the pre-cubist Georges Braque, Andr Derain, Raoul
Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck revolutionized the Paris art world with
"wild", multi-colored, expressive landscapes and figure paintings that the
critics called Fauvism. With his expressive use of color and his free and
imaginative drawing Henri Matisse comes very close to pure abstraction
in French Window at Collioure (1914), View of Notre-Dame (1914),
and The Yellow Curtain from 1915. The raw language of color as
developed by the Fauves directly influenced another pioneer of
abstraction, Wassily Kandinsky(see illustration).
Although Cubism ultimately depends upon subject matter, it became,
along with Fauvism, the art movement that directly opened the door to
abstraction in the 20th century. Pablo Picasso made his
first cubist paintings based on Czanne's idea that all depiction of nature
can be reduced to three solids: cube, sphere and cone. With the
painting Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907), Picasso dramatically created
a new and radical picture depicting a raw and primitive brothel scene
with five prostitutes, violently painted women, reminiscent of African
tribal masks and his own new Cubist inventions. Analytic cubism was
jointly developed by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, from about
1908 through 1912. Analytic cubism, the first clear manifestation of
cubism, was followed by Synthetic cubism, practiced by Braque,
Picasso, Fernand Lger, Juan Gris, Albert Gleizes, Marcel
Duchamp and others into the 1920s. Synthetic cubism is characterized
by the introduction of different textures,
surfaces, collage elements, papier coll and a large variety of merged
subject matter. The collage artists like Kurt Schwitters and Man Ray and
others taking the clue from Cubism were instrumental to the
development of the movement called Dada.
Frantiek Kupka, Amorpha, Fugue en deux couleurs (Fugue in Two Colors), 1912,
oil on canvas, 210 x 200 cm, Narodni Galerie, Prague. Published in Au Salon
d'Automne "Les Indpendants" 1912, Exhibited at the 1912 Salon d'Automne, Paris.

Robert Delaunay, 1912, Windows Open Simultaneously (First Part, Third Motif), oil
on canvas, 45.7 x 37.5 cm,Tate Modern

The Italian poet Marinetti published 'The Founding and Manifesto


of Futurism' in 1909, which inspired artists such as Carlo
Carra in Painting of Sounds, Noises and Smells and Umberto
Boccioni Train in Motion, 1911, to a further stage of abstraction and
profoundly influenced art movements throughout Europe.[11]
During the 1912 Salon de la Section d'Orthe poet Guillaume
Apollinaire named the work of several artists including Robert andSonia
Delaunay, Orphism.[12] He defined it as, the art of painting new structures
out of elements that have not been borrowed from the visual sphere, but
had been created entirely by the artist...it is a pure art.[13]
Since the turn of the century, cultural connections between artists of the
major European and American cities had become extremely active as
they strove to create an art form equal to the high aspirations
of modernism. Ideas were able to cross-fertilize by means of artist's
books, exhibitions and manifestos so that many sources were open to
experimentation and discussion, and formed a basis for a diversity of
modes of abstraction. The following extract from,'The World Backwards',
gives some impression of the inter-connectedness of culture at the time:
'David Burliuk's knowledge of modern art movements must have been
extremely up-to-date, for the second Knave of Diamonds exhibition, held
in January 1912 (in Moscow) included not only paintings sent from
Munich, but some members of the German Die Brcke group, while from
Paris came work by Robert Delaunay, Henri Matisse and Fernand Lger,

as well as Picasso. During the Spring David Burliuk gave two lectures on
cubism and planned a polemical publication, which the Knave of
Diamonds was to finance. He went abroad in May and came back
determined to rival the almanac Der Blaue Reiter which had emerged
from the printers while he was in Germany'.
From 1909 to 1913 many experimental works in the search for this 'pure
art' had been created: Francis Picabia paintedCaoutchouc, 1909,[14] The
Spring, 1912,[15] Dances at the Spring[16] and The Procession, Seville,
1912;[17] Wassily Kandinsky painted Untitled (First Abstract Watercolor),
1910,[18] Improvisation 21A, the Impression series, and Picture with a
Circle (1911);[19] Frantiek Kupka had painted the Orphist works, Discs of
Newton (Study for Fugue in Two Colors), 1912[20]and Amorpha, Fugue en
deux couleurs (Fugue in Two Colors), 1912; Robert Delaunay painted a
series entitledSimultaneous Windows and Formes Circulaires, Soleil
n2 (191213);[21] Lopold Survage created Colored Rhythm (Study for
the film), 1913;[22] Piet Mondrian, painted Tableau No. 1 and Composition
No. 11, 1913.[23]

Wassily Kandinsky, On White 2, 1923

And the search continued: The Rayist (Luchizm) drawings of Natalia


Goncharovaand Mikhail Larionov, used lines like rays of light to make a
construction. Kasimir Malevich completed his first entirely abstract work,
the Suprematist, 'Black Square', in 1915. Another of the Suprematist
group' Liubov Popova, created the Architectonic Constructions and
Spatial Force Constructions between 1916 and 1921. Piet Mondrian was
evolving his abstract language, of horizontal and vertical lines with

rectangles of color, between 1915 and 1919, Neo-Plasticism was the


aesthetic which Mondrian, Theo van Doesburg and other in the group De
Stijl intended to reshape the environment of the future.

Music[edit]
As visual art becomes more abstract, it develops some characteristics of
music: an art form which uses the abstract elements of sound and
divisions of time. Wassily Kandinsky, himself a musician, was inspired by
the possibility of marks and associative color resounding in the soul. The
idea had been put forward by Charles Baudelaire, that all our senses
respond to various stimuli but the senses are connected at a deeper
aesthetic level.
Closely related to this, is the idea that art has The spiritual
dimension and can transcend 'every-day' experience, reaching a spiritual
plane. The Theosophical Society popularized the ancient wisdom of the
sacred books of India and China in the early years of the century. It was
in this context that Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Hilma af Klint and
other artists working towards an 'objectless state' became interested in
the occult as a way of creating an 'inner' object. The universal and
timeless shapes found in geometry: the circle, square and triangle
become the spatial elements in abstract art; they are, like color,
fundamental systems underlying visible reality.

Russian avant-garde[edit]

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, 1923, The Russian Museum

Main articles: Russian avant-garde and Futurism (art)


Many of the abstract artists in Russia became Constructivists believing
that art was no longer something remote, but life itself. The artist must

become a technician, learning to use the tools and materials of modern


production. Art into life! wasVladimir Tatlin's slogan, and that of all the
future Constructivists. Varvara Stepanovaand Alexandre Exter and
others abandoned easel painting and diverted their energies to theatre
design and graphic works. On the other side stood Kazimir
Malevich, Anton Pevsner and Naum Gabo. They argued that art was
essentially a spiritual activity; to create the individual's place in the world,
not to organize life in a practical, materialistic sense. Many of those who
were hostile to the materialist production idea of art left Russia. Anton
Pevsner went to France, Gabo went first to Berlin, then to England and
finally to America. Kandinsky studied in Moscow then left for
the Bauhaus. By the mid-1920s the revolutionary period (1917 to 1921)
when artists had been free to experiment was over; and by the 1930s
only socialist realism was allowed.[24]

The Bauhaus[edit]
The Bauhaus at Weimar, Germany was founded in 1919 by Walter
Gropius.[25] The philosophy underlying the teaching program was unity of
all the visual and plastic arts from architecture and painting to weaving
and stained glass. This philosophy had grown from the ideas of the Arts
and Crafts movement in England and the Deutscher Werkbund. Among
the teachers were Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Johannes Itten, Josef
Albers, Anni Albers, Theo van Doesburg and Lszl Moholy-Nagy. In
1925 the school was moved to Dessau and, as the Nazi party gained
control in 1932, The Bauhaus was closed. In 1937 an exhibition
of degenerate art, 'Entartete Kunst' contained all types of avant-garde art
disapproved of by the Nazi party. Then the exodus began: not just from
the Bauhaus but from Europe in general; to Paris, London and America.
Paul Klee went to Switzerland but many of the artists at the Bauhaus
went to America.

Abstraction in Paris and London[edit]

Kurt Schwitters, Das Undbild, 1919, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

During the 1930s Paris became the host to artists from Russia,
Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries affected by the
rise of totalitarianism.Sophie Tauber and Jean Arp collaborated on
paintings and sculpture using organic/geometric forms. The
Polish Katarzyna Kobro applied mathematically based ideas to
sculpture. The many types of abstraction now in close proximity led to
attempts by artists to analyse the various conceptual and aesthetic
groupings. An exhibition by forty-six members of the Cercle et
Carr group organised by Joaquin Torres-Garcia[26] assisted by Michel
Seuphor[27] contained work by the Neo-Plasticists as well as
abstractionists as varied as Kandinsky, Anton Pevsner and Kurt
Schwitters. Criticised by Theo van Doesburg to be too indefinite a
collection he published the journal Art Concret setting out a manifesto
defining an abstract art in which the line, color and surface only, are the
concrete reality.[28] Abstraction-Cration founded in 1931 as a more open
group, provided a point of reference for abstract artists, as the political
situation worsened in 1935, and artists again regrouped, many in
London. The first exhibition of British abstract art was held in England in
1935. The following year the more international Abstract and
Concreteexhibition was organised by Nicolete Gray including work
by Piet Mondrian, Joan Mir, Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson.
Hepworth, Nicholson and Gabo moved to the St. Ives group in Cornwall
to continue their 'constructivist' work.[29]

America: mid-century[edit]

Main articles: Modernism, Late modernism, American Modernism,


and Surrealism

The above is a 193942 oil on canvas painting by Mondrian titled"Composition No.


10". Responding to it, fellow De Stijl artist Theo van Doesburgsuggested a link
between non-representational works of art and ideals of peace and spirituality.[30]

During the Nazi rise to power in the 1930s many artists fled Europe to
the United States. By the early 1940s the main movements in modern
art, expressionism, cubism, abstraction, surrealism, and dada were
represented in New York: Marcel Duchamp, Fernand Lger, Piet
Mondrian, Jacques Lipchitz, Andr Masson, Max Ernst, Andr Breton,
were just a few of the exiled Europeans who arrived in New York.[31] The
rich cultural influences brought by the European artists were distilled and
built upon by local New York painters. The climate of freedom in New
York allowed all of these influences to flourish. The art galleries that
primarily had focused on European art began to notice the local art
community and the work of younger American artists who had begun to
mature. Certain artists at this time became distinctly abstract in their
mature work. During this period Piet Mondrian's paintingComposition
No. 10, 19391942, characterized by primary colors, white ground and
black grid lines clearly defined his radical but classical approach to the
rectangle and abstract art in general. Some artists of the period defied
categorization, such asGeorgia O'Keeffe who, while a modernist
abstractionist, was a pure maverick in that she painted highly abstract
forms while not joining any specific group of the period.
Eventually American artists who were working in a great diversity of
styles began to coalesce into cohesive stylistic groups. The best known

group of American artists became known as the Abstract


expressionists and the New York School. In New York City there was an
atmosphere which encouraged discussion and there was new
opportunity for learning and growing. Artists and teachers John D.
Graham and Hans Hofmann became important bridge figures between
the newly arrived European Modernists and the younger American artists
coming of age. Mark Rothko, born in Russia, began with strongly
surrealist imagery which later dissolved into his powerful color
compositions of the early 1950s. The expressionistic gesture and the act
of painting itself, became of primary importance to Jackson
Pollock, Robert Motherwell, and Franz Kline. While during the
1940s Arshile Gorky's and Willem de Kooning's figurative work evolved
into abstraction by the end of the decade. New York City became the
center, and artists worldwide gravitated towards it; from other places in
America as well.[32]

Abstraction in the 21st century[edit]


Main articles: Abstract expressionism, Color field, Lyrical
abstraction, Post-painterly abstraction, Sculpture, and Minimal art
A commonly held idea is that pluralism characterizes art at the beginning
of the 21st century. There is no consensus, nor need there be, as to a
representative style of the age. There is an anything goes attitude that
prevails; an "everything going on", and consequently "nothing going on"
syndrome; this creates an aesthetic traffic jam with no firm and clear
direction and with every lane on the artistic superhighway filled to
capacity. Consequently, magnificent and important works of art continue
to be made albeit in a wide variety of styles and aesthetic temperaments,
the marketplace being left to judge merit.[citation needed]
Digital art, computer art, internet art, hard-edge painting, geometric
abstraction, appropriation, hyperrealism, photorealism,expressionism, mi
nimalism, lyrical abstraction, pop art, op art, abstract expressionism,
color field painting, monochrome painting, neoexpressionism, collage, decollage, intermedia, assemblage, digital
painting, postmodern art, neo-Dada painting, shaped canvas painting,
environmental mural painting, graffiti, figure painting, landscape
painting, portrait painting, are a few continuing and current directions at
the beginning of the 21st century.

Into the 21st century abstraction remains very much in view, its main
themes: the transcendental, the contemplative and the timeless are
exemplified by Barnett Newman, John McLaughlin, and Agnes Martin as
well as younger living artists. Art as Object as seen in
the Minimalist sculpture of Donald Judd and the paintings of Frank
Stella are still seen today in newer permutations. The poetic, Lyrical
Abstraction and the sensuous use of color seen in the work of painters
as diverse asRobert Motherwell, Patrick Heron, Kenneth Noland, Sam
Francis, Cy Twombly, Richard Diebenkorn, Helen Frankenthaler,Joan
Mitchell, among others.
There was a resurgence after the war and into the 1950s of the
figurative, as neo-Dada, fluxus, happening, conceptual art,neoexpressionism, installation art, performance art, video art and pop
art have come to signify the age of consumerism. The distinction
between abstract and figurative art has, over the last twenty years,
become less defined leaving a wider range of ideas for all artists.

Causation[edit]
One socio-historical explanation that has been offered for the growing
prevalence of the abstract in modern art an explanation linked to the
name of Theodor W. Adorno is that such abstraction is a response to,
and a reflection of, the growing abstraction of social relations in industrial
society.[33]
Frederic Jameson similarly sees modernist abstraction as a function of
the abstract power of money, equating all things equally as exchangevalues.[34] The social content of abstract art is then precisely the abstract
nature of social existence legal formalities, bureaucratic
impersonalization, information/power in the world of late modernity.[35]
Post-Jungians by contrast would see the quantum theories with their
disintegration of conventional ideas of form and matter as underlying the
divorce of the concrete and the abstract in modern art.[36]

Gallery[edit]
Albert Gleizes, 191012, Les Arbres (The Trees), oil on canvas, 41 x
27 cm. Reproduced in Du "Cubisme", 1912

Arthur Dove, 191112, Based on Leaf Forms and Spaces, pastel on


unidentified support. Now lost
Francis Picabia, 1912, Tarentelle, oil on canvas, 73.6 x
92.1 cm,Museum of Modern Art, New York. Reproduced in Du
"Cubisme"

Wassily Kandinsky, 1912,Improvisation 27 (Garden of


LoveII), oil on canvas, 47 3/8 x 55 1/4 in. (120.3 x
140.3 cm), TheMetropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Exhibited at the 1913Armory Show
Pablo Picasso, 191314, Head(Tte), cut and pasted colored paper,
gouache and charcoal on paperboard, 43.5 x 33 cm,Scottish National
Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh

Henri Matisse, 1914, French Window at


Collioure, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris

Joseph Csaky, Deux figures, 1920, relief, limestone, polychrome,


80 cm, Krller-Mller Museum, Otterlo
Albert Gleizes, 1921,Composition bleu et jaune(Composition jaune), oil
on canvas, 200.5 x 110 cm

Paul Klee, Fire in the Evening, 1929


Piet Mondrian, Composition with Yellow, Black, Blue, Red, and Gray,
1921, Art Institute of Chicago

Barnett Newman, Onement 1, 1948, Museum of


Modern Art, New York

Fernand Lger 1919, The Railway Crossing, oil on


canvas, 53.8 x 64.8 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago

Theo van Doesburg, Neo-Plasticism:


1917, Composition VII (The Three Graces)

See also[edit]

Art portal

Abstract expressionism
Abstraction in art
Action painting
American Abstract Artists
Art history
Art periods

Asemic writing
Concrete art
De Stijl
Geometric abstraction
Hard-edge
History of painting
Lyrical abstraction
Op Art
Representation (arts)
Spatialism
Western painting
In other media
Abstract animation
Abstract comics
Abstract photography
Experimental film

References[edit]
1. Jump up^ Rudolph Arnheim, Visual Thinking
2. Jump up^ Mel Gooding, Abstract Art, Tate
Publishing, London, 2000

3. Jump up^ "Abstract Art What Is Abstract Art or


Abstract Painting, retrieved January 7, 2009".
Painting.about.com. 2011-06-07. Archived from the
original on 7 July 2011. Retrieved2011-06-11.
4. Jump up^ "Themes in American Art Abstraction,
retrieved January 7, 2009". Nga.gov. 2000-0727. Archived from the original on 8 June 2011.
Retrieved 2011-06-11.
5. Jump up^ Gyrgy Kepes, Sign, Symbol and
Image
6. Jump up^ Leys, Simon. 2013. The Hall of
Uselessness: Collected Essays. New York: New
York Review Books. p. 304.ISBN 9781590176207.
7. Jump up^ Whistler versus Ruskin, Princeton
edu. ArchivedJune 16, 2010, at the Wayback
Machine. Retrieved June 13, 2010
8. Jump up^ From the Tate, retrieved April 12, 2009
9. Jump up^ Herbert Read, A Concise History of
Modern Art, Thames and Hudson
10. Jump up^ "Hilton Kramer, "Mondrian &
mysticism: My long search is over", ''New
Criterion'', September 1995". Newcriterion.com.
Retrieved 2012-02-26.
11.Jump up^ Caroline Tisdall and Angelo
Bozzolla, Futurism, Thames and Hudson,1977
12. Jump up^ La Section d'or, 1912-1920-1925,
Ccile Debray, Franoise Lucbert, Muses de
Chteauroux, Muse Fabre, exhibition catalogue,
ditions Cercle d'art, Paris, 2000
13. Jump up^ Harrison and Wood, Art in theory,
19002000, Wiley-Blackwell, 2003, p. 189. ISBN
978-0-631-22708-3.books.google.com"

14. Jump up^ "Francis Picabia, Caoutchouc, 1909,


MNAM, Paris". Francispicabia.org. Retrieved 201309-29.
15. Jump up^ "Museum of Modern Art, New York,
Francis Picabia, ''The Spring'', 1912". Moma.org.
Retrieved 2013-09-29.
16. Jump up^ "MoMA, New York, Francis Picabia,
''Dances at the Spring'', 1912". Moma.org.
Retrieved 2013-09-29.
17. Jump up^ "National Gallery of Art, Washington,
DC., Francis Picabia, The Procession, Seville,
1912". Nga.gov. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
18. Jump up^ Stan Rummel (2007-12-13). "Wassily
Kandinsky, ''Untitled'' (First Abstract Watercolor),
1910". Faculty.txwes.edu. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
19. Jump up^ "The Fiftieth Anniversary of the
Guggenheim Museum, Kandinsky Retrospective,
Guggenheim Museum, New York, 2009" (PDF).
Retrieved 2013-09-29.
20. Jump up^ "Philadelphia Museum of Art, Disks of
Newton (Study for "Fugue in Two Colors") 1912".
Philamuseum.org. Retrieved 2013-09-29.
21. Jump up^ "Muse National d'Art Moderne,
Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, Robert
Delaunay, ''Formes Circulaires, Soleil n2'' (1912
13)" (in French). Centrepompidou.fr. Archived
from the original on September 7, 2012.
Retrieved 2013-09-29.
22. Jump up^ "Museum of Modern Art, New York,
Lopold Survage, Colored Rhythm (Study for the
film) 1913". Moma.org. 1914-07-15.
Retrieved 2013-09-29.
23. Jump up^ "Rijksmuseum Krller-Mller, Otterlo,
Netherlands, Piet Mondrian, 1913". Kmm.nl.

Archived from the original on October 2, 2013.


Retrieved 2013-09-29.
24. Jump up^ Camilla Gray, The Russian
Experiment in Art, 18631922, Thames and
Hudson, 1962
25. Jump up^ Walter Gropius et al., Bauhaus 1919
1928, Museum of Modern Art, 1938
26. Jump up^ Seuphor, Michel (1972). Geometric
Abstraccion 1926-1949. Dallas Museum of Fine
Arts.
27. Jump up^ Michel Seuphor, Abstract Painting
28. Jump up^ Anna Moszynska, Abstract Art, p.104,
Thames and Hudson, 1990
29. Jump up^ Anna Moszynska, Abstract Art,
Thames and Hudson, 1990
30. Jump up^ Utopian Reality: Reconstructing
Culture in Revolutionary Russia and Beyond;
Christina Lodder, Maria Kokkori, Maria Mileeva;
BRILL, Oct 24, 2013 "Van Doesburg stated that the
purpose of art was to imbue man with those
positive spiritual qualities that were needed in order
to overcome the dominance of the physical and
create the conditions for putting an end to wars. In
an enthusiastic essay on Wassily Kandinsky he
had written about the dialogue between the artist
and the viewer, and the role of art as 'the educator
of our inner life, the educator of our hearts and
minds'. Van Doesburg subsequently adopted the
view that the spiritual in man is nurtured specifically
by abstract art, which he later described as 'pure
thought, which does not signify a concept derived
from natural phenomena but which is contained in
numbers, measures, relationships, and abstract
lines'. In his response to Piet Mondrian's
Composition 10, Van Doesburg linked peace and
the spiritual to a non-representational work of art,

asserting that 'it produces a most spiritual


impressionthe impression of repose: the repose
of the soul'."
31. Jump up^ Gillian Naylor, The Bauhaus, Studio
Vista, 1968
32. Jump up^ Henry Geldzahler, New York Painting
and Sculpture: 19401970, Metropolitan Museum
of Modern Art, 1969
33. Jump up^ David Cunningham, 'Asceticism
Against Colour', in New Formations 55 (2005) p.
110
34. Jump up^ M. Hardt/K. Weeks eds., The
Jameson Reader (2000) p. 272
35. Jump up^ Cunningham, p. 114
36. Jump up^ Aniela Jaff, in C. G. Jung ed., Man
and his Symbols(1978) p. 303 and p. 288-9

Sources[edit]
1. ^ Compton, Susan (1978). The World
Backwards: Russian Futurist Books 191216.
The British Library. ISBN 0-7141-0396-9.
2. ^ Stangos, Nikos (editor) (1981). Concepts of
Modern Art. Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0500-20186-2.
3. ^ Gooding, Mel (2001). Abstract Art
(Movements in Modern Art series). Tate
Publishing. ISBN 1-85437-302-1.

External links[edit]
Wikimedia Commons has
media related to Abstract art.

Wikiquote has quotations


related to: Abstract art

The term "Abstraction" spoken about at Museum


of Modern Art by Nelson Goodman of Grove Art
Online
American Abstract Artists
Non Figurative Art explained
[show]

Abstract art
[show]

Geometric abstraction
Categories:

Art movements
Modern art
Abstract art
Painting

Navigation menu

Not logged in

Talk

Contributions

Create account

Log in

Article

Talk

Read
Edit
View history

Search
Go

Main page

Contents

Featured content

Current events

Random article

Donate to Wikipedia

Wikipedia store
Interaction

Help

About Wikipedia

Community portal

Recent changes

Contact page
Tools

What links here

Related changes

Upload file

Special pages

Permanent link

Page information

Wikidata item

Cite this page


Print/export

Create a book

Download as PDF

Printable version
In other projects

Wikimedia Commons

Wikiquote
Languages

Afrikaans

()

Bosanski
Catal
etina
Dansk
Deutsch
Eesti

Espaol
Esperanto
Euskara

Franais
Galego

Hrvatski
Bahasa Indonesia
slenska
Italiano

Basa Jawa

Latvieu
Lietuvi
Magyar

Nederlands

Norsk bokml
Norsk nynorsk
Ozbekcha/

Piemontis
Polski
Portugus
Romn

Scots

Simple English
Slovenina
Slovenina
/ srpski
Srpskohrvatski /
Suomi
Svenska
Tagalog

Trke

Ting Vit

Edit links

This page was last modified on 18 November 2016, at 05:02.


Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-

ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. By using this


site, you agree to the Terms of Use andPrivacy Policy.
Wikipedia is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia
Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abstract_art

Abstract Art: A General Guide

Definition, Types, History, Characteristics


Contents

Definition
What is the Idea Behind Abstract Art?
Types
Origins and History
Stone Age Abstract Painting
From Academic Realism to Abstraction
Kandinsky & Expressionism Demonstrate The Power of Colour
Cubism Rejects Perspective and Pictorial Depth
Suprematism and De Stijl Introduce New Geometric Shapes
Surrealist and Organic Abstraction
Abstract Expressionism - More Colour, No More Geometry
Europe: Art Informel & Tachisme
Op-Art: The New Geometric Abstraction
Postmodernist Abstraction
Famous Collections

Resources

Abstract
Abstract
Abstract
Abstract
Abstract

Painters
Paintings: Top 100
Art Movements
Sculpture (1900-2000)
Sculptors (1900-2000)

Definition and Meaning

Black Abstraction (1927)


Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.
By Georgia O'Keeffe.
A wonderful autobiographical
example of biomorphic abstraction.

The term 'abstract art' - also called "non-objective art", "non-figurative",


"non-representational", "geometric abstraction", or "concrete art" - is a
rather vague umbrella term for any painting or sculpture which does not
portray recognizable objects or scenes. However, as we shall see, there is no
clear consensus on the definition, types or aesthetic significance of abstract
art. Picasso thought that there was no such thing, while some art critics take
the view that all art is abstract - because, for instance, no painting can hope
to be more than a crude summary (abstraction) of what the painter sees.
Even mainstream commentators sometimes disagree over whether a canvas
should be labelled "expressionist" or "abstract" - take for example the
watercolourShip on Fire (1830, Tate), and the oil painting Snow Storm Steam Boat off a Harbour's Mouth (1842, Tate), both by JMW Turner (17751851). A similar example is Water-Lilies (1916-20, National Gallery, London)
by Claude Monet (1840-1926). Also, there is a sliding scale of abstraction:
from semi-abstract to wholly abstract. So even though the theory is
relatively clear - abstract art is detached from reality - the practical task of
separating abstract from non-abstract can be much more problematical.
What is the Idea Behind Abstract Art?
The basic premise of abstraction - incidentally, a key issue of aesthetics - is
that the formal qualities of a painting (or sculpture) are just as important (if

not more so) than its representational qualities.


Let's start with a very simple illustration. A picture may contain a very bad
drawing of a man, but if its colours are very beautiful, it may nevertheless
strike us as being a beautiful picture. This shows how a formal quality
(colour) can override a representational one (drawing).
On the other hand, a photorealist painting of a terraced house may
demonstrate exquisite representationalism, but the subject matter, colour
scheme and general composition may be totally boring.
The philosophical justification for appreciating the value of a work of art's
formal qualities stems from Plato's statement that:

Composition With Blue And Yellow.


(1932) Piet Mondrian.
Philadelphia Museum Of Art.
Neo-Plasticism/De Stijl.

"straight lines and circles are... not only beautiful... but eternally and
absolutely beautiful."

WHAT IS ART?
For an guide to the aesthetic and
classification issues concerning
fine/decorative/applied arts, see:
Art Definition, Meaning.

In essence, Plato means that non-naturalistic images (circles, squares,


triangles and so on) possess an absolute, unchanging beauty. Thus a painting
can be appreciated for its line and colour alone - it doesn't need to depict a
natural object or scene. The French painter, lithographer and art theorist
Maurice Denis (1870-1943) was getting at the same thing when he wrote:
"Remember that a picture - before being a war horse or a nude woman... is
essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order."
Some abstract artists explain themselves by saying that they want to create
the visual equivalent of a piece of music, which can be appreciated purely for
itself, without having to ask the question "what is this painting of?" Whistler,
for instance, used to give some of his paintings musical titles like Nocturne:
Blue and Silver - Chelsea (1871, Tate Collection). (See also: Art Evaluation:
How to Appreciate Art.)

Types of Abstract Art


To keep things simple, we can divide abstract art into six basic types:

Curvilinear
Colour-Related or Light-Related
Geometric
Emotional or Intuitional
Gestural
Minimalist

Some of these types are less abstract than others, but all are concerned with

separating art from reality.


Curvilinear Abstract Art
This type of curvilinear abstraction is strongly associated with Celtic Art, which
employed a range of abstract motifs including knots (eight basic types),
interlace patterns, and spirals (including the triskele, or the triskelion). These
motifs were not original to the Celts - many other early cultures had been
utilizing these Celtic designs for centuries: see for instance the spiral
engravings at the Neolithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange in Co Meath, created
some 2000 years before the appearance of the Celts. However, it is fair to say
that Celtic designers breathed new life into these patterns, making them much
more intricate and sophisticated in the process. These patterns later reemerged as decorative elements in early illuminated manuscripts (c.600-1000
CE). Later they returned during the 19th century Celtic Revival Movement, and
the influential 20th century Art Nouveau movement: notably in book-covers,
textile, wallpaper and chintz designs by the likes of William Morris (1834-96)
and Arthur Mackmurdo (1851-1942). Curvilinear abstraction is also
exemplified by the "infinite pattern", a widespread feature of Islamic Art.
Colour-Related or Light-Related Abstract Art
This type is exemplified in works by Turner and Monet, that use colour (or
light) in such a way as to detach the work of art from reality, as the object
dissolves in a swirl of pigment. Two instances of Turner's style of expressive
abstraction have already been mentioned, to which we can add his Interior at
Petworth (1837, Tate Collection). Other examples include the final sequence of
Water Lily paintings by Claude Monet (1840-1926), The Talisman (1888,
Musee d'Orsay, Paris) by Paul Serusier (1864-1927) leader of Les Nabis, and
several Fauvist works of Henri Matisse (1869-1954). Several of Kandinsky's
expressionist pictures painted during his time with Der Blaue Reiter come very
close to abstraction, as does Deer in the Wood II (1913-14, Staatliche
Kunsthalle, Karsruhe) by his colleague Franz Marc (1880-1916). The Czech
painter Frank Kupka (1871-1957) produced some of the first highly coloured
abstract paintings, which influenced Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) who also
relied on colour in his Cubist-inspired style of Orphism. Colour-related
abstraction re-emerged in the late 1940s and 50s in the form of Colour Field
Painting, developed by Mark Rothko (1903-70) and Barnett Newman (190570). In 1950s France, a parallel type of colour-related abstract painting sprang
up, known as Lyrical Abstraction.

Geometric Abstraction
This type of intellectual abstract art emerged from about 1908 onwards. An
early rudimentary form was Cubism, specifically analytical Cubism - which
rejected linear perspective and the illusion of spatial depth in a painting, in
order to focus on its 2-D aspects. Geometric Abstraction is also known as
Concrete Art and Non-Objective Art. As you might expect, it is characterized

by non-naturalistic imagery, typically geometrical shapes such as circles,


squares, triangles, rectangles, and so forth. In a sense - by containing
absolutely no reference to, or association with, the natural world - it is the
purest form of abstraction. One might say that concrete art is to abstraction,
what veganism is to vegetarianism. Geometrical abstraction is exemplified
byBlack Circle (1913, State Russian Museum, St Petersburg) painted
by Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) (founder of Suprematism); Broadway
Boogie-Woogie(1942, MoMA, New York) by Piet Mondrian (1872-1944)
(founder of Neo-Plasticism); and Composition VIII (The Cow) (1918, MoMA,
New York) by Theo Van Doesburg (1883-1931) (founder of De Stijl and
Elementarism). Other examples include the Homage to the Square pictures
by Josef Albers (1888-1976), and Op-Art originated by Victor Vasarely (19061997).
Emotional or Intuitional Abstract Art
This type of intuitional art embraces a mix of styles, whose common theme is
a naturalistic tendency. This naturalism is visible in the type of shapes and
colours employed. Unlike Geometric Abstraction, which is almost anti-nature,
intuitional abstraction often evokes nature, but in less representational ways.
Two important sources for this type of abstract art are: Organic Abstraction
(also called Biomorphic abstraction) and Surrealism. Arguably, the most
celebrated painter specializing in this type of art was the Russian-born Mark
Rothko - see: Mark Rothko's Paintings (1938-70). Other examples include
canvases by Kandinsky like Composition No.4 (1911, Kunstsammlung
Nordrhein-Westfalen), and Composition VII (1913, Tretyakov Gallery); the
typical Teller, Gabel und Nabel (1923, Private Collection) by Jean Arp (18871966), Woman (1934, Private Collection) by Joan Miro (1893-1983), Inscape:
Psychological Morphology no 104 (1939, Private Collection) by Matta (19112002); and Infinite Divisibility (1942, Allbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo) by
Yves Tanguy (1900-55). In sculpture, this type of abstraction is exemplified
by The Kiss (1907, Kunsthalle, Hamburg) by Constantin Brancusi (18761957);Mother and Child (1934, Tate) by Barbara Hepworth(1903-1975); Giant
Pip(1937, Musee National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou) by Jean
Arp;Three Standing Figures (1953, Guggenheim Museum, Venice) by Henry
Moore (1898-1986).
Gestural Abstract Art
This is a form of abstract expressionism, where the process of making the
painting becomes more important than usual. Paint may be applied in unusual
ways, brushwork is often very loose, and rapid. Famous American exponents
of gestural painting include Jackson Pollock (1912-56), the inventor of ActionPainting, and his wife Lee Krasner (1908-84) who inspired him with her own
form of drip-painting; Willem de Kooning (1904-97), famous for
his Womanseries of works; and Robert Motherwell (1912-56), noted for
his Elegy to the Spanish Republic series. In Europe, this form is exemplified
by Tachisme, as well as by the Cobra Group, notably Karel Appel (1921-2006).

Minimalist Abstract Art


This type of abstraction was a back-to-basics sort of avant-garde art, stripped
of all external references and associations. It is what you see - nothing else. It
often takes a geometrical form, and is dominated by sculptors, although it also
includes some great painters. For more information on minimalist art, see
below ("Postmodernist Abstraction").

Origins and History


Stone Age Abstract Paintings
As far as we can tell, abstract art first began some 70,000 years ago
withprehistoric engravings: namely, two pieces of rock engraved with abstract
geometric patterns, found in the Blombos Cave in South Africa. This was
followed by the abstract red-ochre dots and hand stencils discovered among
the El Castillo Cave paintings, dated to 39,000 BCE, the Neanderthal
engraving at Gorham's Cave, Gibraltar, and the club-shaped claviform image
among theAltamira Cave paintings (c.34,000 BCE). Thereafter, abstract
symbols became the predominant form of Paleolithic cave art, outnumbering
figurative images by 2:1. See: Prehistoric Abstract Signs.
From Academic Realism to Abstraction
Up until the late 19th century, most painting and sculpture followed the
traditional principles of Classical Realism, as taught in the great Academies of
Europe. These principles laid down that art's first duty was to provide a
recognizable scene or object. However much affected by the demands of style
or medium, a work of art had to imitate or represent external reality. However,
during the last quarter of the 19th century, things began to change.
Impressionist art demonstrated that the strict academic style of naturalistic
painting was no longer the only authentic way of doing things. Then, during
the period 1900-1930, developments in other areas of modern art provided
additional techniques (involving colour, a rejection of 3-D perspective, and
new shapes), which would be used to further the quest for abstraction.
Artists Start To Move Away From Reality
The first of the major modern art movements to subvert the academic style of
classical realism was Impressionism (fl.1870-1880), whose palette was often
decidedly non-naturalistic, although its art remained firmly and clearly derived
from the real world, even if Claude Monet's final work on his Water Lilies genre
seemed more akin to abstraction. The emergence of abstract art was also
influenced by the Art Nouveau movement (c.1890-1914).
Kandinsky, Expressionism & Fauvism Demonstrate The Power of
Colour

The use of colour and shape to move the spectator was paramount in the
development of abstract art. Impressionism, including the variants of NeoImpressionist Pointillism and Post-Impressionism, had already drawn attention
to the power of colour, but German Expressionism made it the cornerstone of
painting. One of its leaders, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) published a book
entitled 'On The Spirtual In Art' (1911), which became the foundation text of
abstract painting.
Kandinsky was convinced by the emotional properties of shape, line and above
all, colour in painting. (He had an abnormal sensitivity to colour, which he
could hear as well as see, a condition called synaesthesia.) He believed a
painting should not be analyzed intellectually but allowed to reach those parts
of the brain that connect with music.
Even so, he warned that serious art must not be lead by the desire for
abstraction into becoming mere decoration. Most German Expressionists (eg.
Ernst Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Max Ernst, Alexei Jawlensky, Oskar
Kokoschka, Franz Marc, August Macke and Max Beckmann) were not abstract
painters, but their vivid palette - along with Kandinsky's theoretical writings alerted other more abstract-inclined artists to the power of colour as a means
of achieving their goals.
The parallel Parisian avant-garde style of Fauvism (1905-08) merely
underlined the effect of colour with works like Red Studio (1911, MoMA, NY)
by Henri Matisse.

Cubism Rejects Perspective and Pictorial Depth


Cubism (1908-14) was a reaction against the decorative prettiness of
Impressionism. Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963)
developed this new style in stages: first, proto-type Cubism (see Picasso's
semi-abstract Les Demoiselles d'Avignon, 1907, MoMA, NY); then Analytical
Cubism (see Nude Descending a Staircase No.2, 1912, Philadelphia Museum of
Art) by Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968); then Synthetic Cubism, which was
more collage-oriented. Their basic concept was to move away from the pretty
but trivial art of Impressionism, towards a more intellectual form of art which
explored new methods of portraying reality.
In particular, they rejected the academic method of representing reality
through the use of linear perspective (depth) to create the usual threedimensional effect in a painting. Instead, they kept everything on a twodimensional flat plane, upon which they laid out different 'views' of the same
object: a process similar to taking photographs of an object from different
angles, then cutting up the photos and pasting them on a flat surface. This
method of using a flat surface to depict 3-D reality, rocked art to its
foundations. Although most Cubist works were still derived from objects or
scenes in the real world, and thus cannot be considered to be wholly abstract,
the movement's rejection of traditional perspective completely undermined

natural-realism in art, and thus opened the door to pure abstraction.


Cubist-inspired abstract sculptors include: Constantin Brancusi (1876-1957),
who was also influenced by African and Oriental art.
Raymond Duchamp-Villon (1876-1918), who used Cubist devices to represent
movement, and Jacques Lipchitz (1891-1973).
For an early 20th century abstract style of painting which attempted to blend
Cubist composition with colour and music, see: Orphism. A British pre-war art
movement which was strongly influenced by the Cubist idiom,
was Vorticism(1913-14), founded by Percy Wyndham Lewis (1882-1957).
The Italian Futurism movement (1909-13), founded by Marinetti (1876-1944)
and exemplified by Gino Severini (1883-1966) and Giacomo Balla (18711958), was also influenced by Cubism, and in turn inspired numerous painters
with its emphasis on movement and technology. In sculpture, Futurism's
greatest effect was on the development of Kinetic art, influencing abstract
sculptors like Naum Gabo (1890-1977) and Alexander Calder (1898-1976)
(noted for his mobiles).
NOTE: "Tubism", invented by Fernand Leger (1881-1955), was a form of
Cubism which used cylindrical and spherical pieces - rather than Cubism's flat
overlapping pieces - and included numerous machine-like motifs, reflecting
Leger's futuristic faith in technology. See, for example, works like: Soldiers
Playing at Cards(1917, Kroller-Muller State Museum, Otterlo); The
Mechanic(1920, National Gallery of Canada); Three Women (Le Grand
Dejeuner) (1921, Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Suprematism and De Stijl Introduce New Geometric Shapes
Traditional fine art painting and sculpture relies on shapes taken from the real
world, of which there are limitless examples. In contrast, abstract artists are
obliged to rely on artificial, non-natural forms. Thus abstract art is typically
concerned with the production of various geometric shapes. And the size and
character of these shapes, their relationship to each other, as well as the
colours used throughout the work, become the defining motifs of abstraction.
Russian Suprematism
The Russian abstract art movement known as Suprematism, which was named
by its leader Kasimir Malevich (1878-1935) for its assertion of the supremacy
of sensation in art, appeared in 1915. No doubt influenced by Kandinsky who
had already begun to produce a range of concretist works, Malevich produced
a series of outstanding avant-garde abstract paintings - rectangular blocks of
plain colour floating on a white background - which were decades ahead of his
time. He saw them as successors to the traditional icon-imagery of the
Russian Orthodox Church in the flat Byzantine style of Antiquity. In 1927, his
Suprematist theory was published in a book entitled Die Gegenstandlose
Welt(The Non-Objective World). Lyubov Popova (1889-1924), along with
Alexander Rodchenko (1891-1956) considered one of the co-founders of the

Russian style of Constructivism (a school concerned with space, new


materials, 3-D form, as well as science and social reform) was another
important member of the Suprematist movement. Another interesting Russian
art movement which introduced new imagery was Rayonism (or Luchism)
(1912-14), founded byMikhail Larionov (1881-1964) and Natalya Goncharova
(1881-1962). Abstract sculptors who were influenced by
Suprematist/Constructivist ideas included Sophie Taeuber-Arp (1889-1943)
and Naum Gabo (1890-1977).
De Stijl
De Stijl was the name of a Dutch design and aesthetics journal and avantgarde art movement, devoted to geometric abstraction (non-objective art),
which was founded and led by Theo Van Doesburg (1883-1931). Its leading
figure was Piet Mondrian (1872-1944), who is famous for his series of simple
rectangular grids, using only black, white and primary colours - a style he
called Neo-Plasticism (Nieuwe Beelding). One of the most influential pioneers
of concrete art during the period 1920-1944, he developed his precise
geometric style as a counter-statement to the emotional chaos and
uncertainty of the first half of the twentieth century. Involved with the abstract
group Cercle et Carre (1929-31), as well as the Abstraction-CreationGroup
(1930-6), he moved to New York in 1938, and was allegedly the first painter
to work to gramaphone music.
Van Doesburg was less dogmatic, introducing a more relaxed form of NeoPlasticism, called Elementarism. He was also responsible, in 1930, for coining
the term "Concrete Art". Sadly he died in 1931, but his ideas were continued
not only by students of the Bauhaus design school (where he had lectured),
but also by the Abstraction-Creation group - led by the Belgian artist Georges
Vantongerloo (1886-1965) and the French painters Jean Helion (1904-87) and
Auguste Herbin (1882-1960). Other group members included the cream of
European abstractionists, such as Jean Arp (1886-1966), Naum Gabo (18901977), El Lissitzky (1890-1941), Antoine Pevsner (1886-1962), Barbara
Hepworth (1903-1975) and Ben Nicholson (1894-1982). The Swiss exBauhaus architect, sculptor and designer Max Bill (1908-94) was another
follower who helped to promote the genre in Switzerland, Italy, Argentina and
Brazil.

Surrealist and Organic Abstraction


In parallel with the development of geometric-style concretism, during the
1920s and 1930s, exponents of Surrealism began to produce a range of
fantasy-like, quasi-naturalistic images. The leading exemplars of this style
ofBiomorphic/Organic Abstraction were Jean Arp and Joan Miro, neither of
whom - as their many preparatory sketches confirm - relied on the technique
of automatism. Their fellow Surrealist Salvador Dali (1904-89) also produced
some extraordinary paintings like The Persistence of Memory (1931, MoMA,
NY) and Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (1936, Philadelphia Museum of
Art). Jean Arp was also an active sculptor who specialized in Organic

Abstraction, as did the English sculptors Henry Moore (1898-1986)


andBarbara Hepworth (1903-1975). (See: Modern British Sculpture 1930-70.)
A number of European abstract artists later sought sanctuary in America,
where they encountered and influenced a new generation of indigenous
abstract painters. These influential emigrants included painters like Hans
Hofmann(1880-1966), Max Ernst (1891-1976), Andre Masson (18961987), Arshile Gorky (1904-48), Yves Tangy (1900-55) and others. As it
happened, despite the controversy surrounding New York's Armory Show in
1913, the city was developing a keen interest in abstraction. The Museum of
Modern Art was founded in 1929, and the Museum of Non-Objective Painting
(later renamed the Samuel R Guggenheim Museum), in 1939.
Note: For two collectors of abstract painting and sculpture of the first half of
the 20th century, see: Solomon Guggenheim (1861-1949) and Peggy
Guggenheim (1898-1979).
Note: For avant-garde abstraction in Britain (c.1939-75) please see: St Ives
School.
Abstract Expressionism - More Colour, No More Geometry
Although post-war European artists maintained their interest in abstract art
through the Salon des Realites Nouvelles in Paris, by 1945 the centre of
modern art had shifted to New York, where the avant-garde was represented
by the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Arising out of the Great
Depression and World War II, this movement, never associated with a
coherent program as such, was led by Jackson Pollock (1912-56), Mark Rothko
(1903-70), Willem De Kooning (1904-97), Clyfford Still (1904-80), Barnett
Newman (1905-70) and Adolph Gottlieb (1903-74). The next generation
included painters such as Robert Motherwell. The name of the movement was
coined by Robert Coates, art critic of the New Yorker. Offshoots include
Pollock's 'Action Painting' and Rothko's 'Colour Field Painting', and the curious
'Abstract Impressionism' of Philip Guston (1913-80).
Abstract Expressionist Painting remains a vague term - often confusingly
applied to artists who are neither truly abstract, nor expressionist - which
describes a form of abstract painting (non-figurative, non-naturalistic) in which
colour takes precedence over shape; the latter being no longer geometric.
Early works in this style typically filled large scale canvases, whose size was
designed to overwhelm spectators and draw them into another world. The
preoccupation of abstract expressionists with visual effects, especially the
impact of colour, was a reflection of their main goal - to involve and explore
basic human emotions. Thus an abstract expressionist painting is best felt
intuitively rather than understood: the question posed being typically: 'what
does it make you feel?' - rather than, 'what is it saying?'
It must be emphasized that this was a wide movement, encompassing
differing styles, including (as mentioned) works that were either semi- or nonabstract, as well as those characterized by the way paint was applied, such
as Jackson Pollock's paintings (dripped and poured), and Willem de Kooning's

works (gestural brushwork). For two interesting early works that illustrate the
differing styles of these two artists, see: Seated Woman (1944, Metropolitan
Museum of Art) by Willem de Kooning and Pasiphae (1943, Metropolitan) by
Jackson Pollock. The fact that it was the first major art movement born in the
USA, gave it added weight and significance: at least in the minds of critics.
Later, Abstract Expressionism spawned a number of individual styles under the
umbrella of Post-painterly abstraction, an anti-gesturalist trend. These
individual styles included: Hard-Edge Painting, Colour Stain Painting,
Washington Colour Movement, American Lyrical Abstraction, and Shaped
Canvas. Abstract Expressionism also provoked avant-garde responses from
several other artists including Cy Twombly (1928-2011), whose calligraphic
scribbling is part-drawing, part-graffiti; and the Californian abstract sculptor
Mark Di Suvero (b.1933) noted for his large scale iron/steel sculptures.
Europe: Art Informel, Tachisme & Cobra Group Gesturalism
In Europe, a new art movement known as Art Informel emerged during the
late 1940s. Seen as the European version of abstract expressionism, it was in
reality an umbrella movement with a number of sub-variants. These minimovements included: (1) Tachisme, a style of abstract painting marked by
splotches and dabs of colour, was promoted as the French answer to American
Abstract Expressionism. A key influence was the avant-garde American
artist Mark Tobey (1890-1976), whose all-over calligraphic painting style
anticipated that of Pollock. Important members included Jean Fautrier (18981964), Georges Mathieu (1921-2012), Pierre Soulages (b.1919), and the
Portuguese artist Maria Helena Vieira da Silva (1908-92) as well as the
American abstract expressionist Sam Francis (1923-94). (2) The avantgardeCobra Group, which practised the gestural or "action painting" style of
American Abstract Expressionism. It was founded by painters, sculptors and
graphic artists from the Danish group Host, the Dutch group Reflex, and
theBelgian Revolutionary Surrealist Group, including: Asger Jorn (1914-73),
the Belgian writer Christian Dotremont (1922-79), Pierre Alechinsky (b.1927),
Karel Appel (1921-2006) and Constant (C.A. Nieuwenhuys) (1920-2005). Pol
Bury (1922-2005) was also a member, but in 1953 he quit painting to explore
kinetic sculpture. (3) Lyrical Abstraction, a quieter, more harmonious style
ofArt Informel. Leading members included: Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang
Schulze) (1913-51), Hans Hartung (1904-89), Jean-Michel Atlan (1913-60),
Pierre Soulages (b.1919), Georges Mathieu (1921-2012), and Jean-Paul
Riopelle(1923-2002). Other sub-groups included Forces Nouvelles, and Art
Non Figuratif.
Op-Art: The New Geometric Abstraction
One of the most distinct styles of geometric abstract painting to emerge from
the modernist era, was the Op-Art movement (an abbreviation of 'optical art')
whose hallmark was the engagement of the eye, by means of complex, often
monochromatic, geometric patterns, to cause it to see colours and shapes that
were not actually there. Leading members included the Hungarian painter and
graphic designer Victor Vasarely (1908-97), and the English painterBridget

Riley (b.1931). The movement disappeared by the early 1970s.


Postmodernist Abstraction
Since the start of postmodernism (since the mid-60s) contemporary art has
tended to fragment into smaller, more local schools. This is because the
prevailing philosophy among contemporary art movements has been to
distrust the grand styles of the early 20th century. An exception is
the Minimalismschool, a back-to-basics style of geometric abstraction
exemplified bypostmodernist artists like sculptors Donald Judd (1928-94), Sol
LeWitt (1928-2007), Robert Morris (b.1931), Walter de Maria (b.1935),
and Carl Andre(b.1935). Another important minimalist sculptor is Richard
Serra (b.1939) whose abstract works include Tilted Arc (1981, Federal Plaza,
New York) andThe Matter of Time (2004, Guggenheim Bilbao). Noted abstract
painters associated with Minimalism include Ad Reinhardt (1913-67), Frank
Stella(b.1936), whose large scale paintings involve interlocking clusters of
shape and colours; Sean Scully (b.1945) the Irish-American painter whose
rectangular shapes of colour seem to imitate the monumental forms of
prehistoric structures; as well as Jo Baer (b.1929), Ellsworth Kelly (b.1923),
Robert Mangold (b.1937), Brice Marden (b.1938), Agnes Martin (1912-2004),
and Robert Ryman (b.1930).
In part a reaction against the austerity of minimalism, Neo-Expressionism was
mainly a figurative movement which emerged from the early 1980s onwards.
However, it also included a number of outstanding abstract painters such as
the Englishman Winner Howard Hodgkin (b.1932), as well as the German
artistsGeorg Baselitz (b.1938), Anselm Kiefer (b.1945), and others. Among
several other internationally acclaimed abstract artists who achieved
recognition during the 1980s and 1990s, is the British sculptor Anish Kapoor
(b.1954), noted for large-scale works in rough hewn stone, cast metal and
stainless steel. Both Hodgkin and Kapoor are Turner Prize Winners.
Collections of Abstract Art
Non-representational art can be seen in most of the best art museums around
the world. Notable collections are held by the following institutions

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.


Samuel R Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
Tate Gallery, London.
Georges Pompidou Centre, Paris.
Guggenheim Bilbao.
Guggenheim Venice.
Kunstmuseum, Basel.

http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/abstract-art.htm