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Abstractionism Artworks - The Tendencies

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

Abstract art uses 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.

I'd like to introduce you to the most important abstract art styles and movements, as well as a few examples from the first half of the 20th century.

Abstract paintings of famous artists

  1. K. Malevich: Black square

  2. K. Malevich: Suprematism

  3. P. Mondrian: New York City

  4. P. Mondrian: Composition II in Red. Blue and Yellow

  5. P. Klee: Insula Dulcamara

  6. P. Klee: Ad Parnassum

  7. W. Kandinsky: Upward

  8. W Kandinsky: Tempered Elan


Cubism emerged during a period of rapid experimentation by Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque after Pablo Picasso's shocking 1907 Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Building on Paul Cezanne's emphasis on the underlying architecture of form, these artists used multiple perspectives to break images into geometric forms. Instead of forms modeled in an illusionistic space, the figures were represented as a dynamic arrangement of volumes and planes, where background and foreground merge. This movement was one of the most defining movements of the early 20th century, as it challenged the Renaissance representation of space and led almost directly to experimentation with non-representation by many different artists. Artists working in the Cubist style later incorporated elements of collage and popular culture into their paintings and also experimented with sculpture.

Picasso and Braque's geometric representations of objects and space were adopted by a number of artists, including Fernand Léger and Juan Gris, and others who formed the group known as the Salon Cubists.


Suprematism, the work of Kazimir Malevich, was one of the first and extremely radical developments in abstract art. Its name referred to Malevich's belief that Suprematist art leads to "the supremacy of pure feeling or perception in fine art". Influenced by Russian avant-garde writers and poets, Malevich disregarded the "old" rules of storytelling or the written language. Inspired by this new way of thinking, Malevich rejected the idea that art should "copy nature" and instead envisioned the possibility of abstract art reduced to the most basic geometric forms. And following poets and literary critics interested in questioning what constitutes poetry and prose, Malevich set out to ask the same basic questions about art.


Constructivism was the most influential modern art movement in twentieth-century Russia. Constructivism, whose aesthetic roots were firmly rooted in Suprematism, came to the fore as the art of the young Soviet Union after the 1917 revolution. The movement was born out of a need for a new aesthetic language that benefited the new, progressive era of Soviet socialist history. Constructivism also borrowed elements from other European avant-gardes, namely Cubism and Futurism, and was centered on the idea that artistic creation should be approached as a kind of cerebral "building" process.

Freed from the old romantic notion of being tied to the studio and the easel, constructivist artists were reborn as technicians and/or engineers who, like scientists, sought solutions to modern problems. By the early 1920s, Constructivist art was aligned with the idea of ​​Productivism, which applied the aesthetic principles of Constructivism to "everyday" art such as photography, fashion, graphic and textile design, cinema, and theater. Nevertheless, by the early 1930s, the Soviet avant-garde ran roughshod over the new regime, which sought to promote a more transparent style of socialist realism.

Geometric abstraction

Geometric abstraction is a form of abstract art based on the use of geometric shapes that are sometimes, though not always, placed in non-illusionistic space and combined in non-objective compositions. Although the genre was popularized by avant-garde artists at the beginning of the twentieth century, similar motifs have been used in art since ancient times.

During the 20th century art historical discourse, critics and artists working within the reductive or pure trends of abstraction often suggested that geometric abstraction represents the culmination of a non-objective artistic practice that necessarily emphasizes or draws attention to the radical plasticity and two-dimensionality of painting as an artistic medium. perhaps. Thus, it was suggested that geometric abstraction could act as a solution to modernist painting's problems of rejecting the illusionist practices of the past while dealing with the inherently two-dimensional nature of the picture plane and the canvas as a medium. Wassily Kandinsky, a forerunner of pure, non-objective painting, was among the first modern artists to explore this geometric approach in his abstract works. Other examples of pioneers of abstraction such as Kasimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian also espoused this approach to abstract painting. Mondrian's painting "Composition No. 10" (1939-1942) clearly defines a radical but classical approach to the construction of horizontal and vertical lines, as Mondrian wrote: "built with awareness but not calculation, guided by a high degree of intuition, brought into harmony and rhythm.

De Stijl

The Dutch De Stijl movement espoused an abstract, simplistic aesthetic centered around basic visual elements such as geometric shapes and primary colors. De Stijl art is partly a reaction against the decorative excesses of Art Deco, the creators of De Stijl art imagined the reduced quality of De Stijl art as a universal visual language suitable for the modern age, the time of the new, spiritualized world order. Led by painters Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian - central and celebrated figures in the art - De Stijl artists applied their style to many mediums of fine and applied art and beyond. They promoted their innovative ideas in their journal of the same name, and members envisioned nothing less than the ideal fusion of form and function, making De Stijl in fact the ultimate style. To this end, De Stijl artists turned their attention not only to fine art mediums such as painting and sculpture, but to virtually every other art form, including industrial design, typography, and even literature and music. The influence of De Stijl was perhaps most felt in architecture and contributed to the development of the international style of the 1920s and 1930s.

Neoplasticism, articulated most fully by the Dutch artist Piet Mondrian, relied on the most basic elements of painting—color, line, and form—to convey universal and absolute truths. Mondrian argued for a strict use of geometry and color to create asymmetrical yet balanced compositions that conveyed the underlying harmony of reality. Like many avant-garde styles of the early 20th century, neoplastic theory was based on a utopian social vision. Embracing the elemental forms of composition and the fusion of painting and architecture, Neoplasticism sought to transform society by changing the way people saw and experienced their environment.

Art Informel

In response to the atrocities and traumas of World War II, the artists associated with Art Informel broke with the previous naturalistic, figurative and geometric traditions and created in the spirit of anti-compositional forms, gestural techniques, and spontaneity and irrationality influenced by surrealism. Art Informel, created by the critic Michel Tapié, was an umbrella term that included a multitude of styles and artists who, as Tapié put it, were not interested in movements, but "something much rarer, authentic individuals". Tapié included European artists as well as American, Dutch and Japanese artists in this grouping, so Art Informel became an international reaction to world events.

Although the style is difficult to define due to its diversity, and although largely confined to Europe and overshadowed by Abstract Expressionism, various styles including Art Brut, Lyrical Abstraction, Tachisme, Matter Painting, CoBrA and Gutai have had a lasting influence on to neo-expressionist painters, post-minimalist sculptors and the broad field of performance art.

Color field painting

Color Field Painting is a movement within Abstract Expressionism that is distinct from gestural abstraction or action painting. It was pioneered in the late 1940s by Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Clyfford Still, who independently sought a style of abstraction that could provide modern, mythic art and express a yearning for transcendence and the infinite. To achieve this, they abandoned all hints of figuration and instead exploited the expressive power of color, using it in large fields that could overwhelm the viewer when viewed up close. Their work inspired much post-painterly abstraction, particularly that of Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Jules Olitski, although for the later color field painters questions of form were generally more important than mythic content

Op Art

Artists have been preoccupied with the nature of perception and optical effects and illusions for centuries. These were often central themes in art, as well as themes drawn from history or literature. In the 1950s, however, these interests, along with a new interest in technology and psychology, blossomed into a movement. Op or optical art typically uses abstract patterns that are juxtaposed with a strong contrast of foreground and background - often in black and white for maximum contrast - to create an effect that confuses and excites the eye. In the beginning, op shared the field with kinetic art - op artists were attracted by virtual movement, and kinetic artists by the possibility of real movement. Both styles began with the group exhibition Le Mouvement at the Galerie Denise Rene in 1955. It attracted a wide international audience and, after being celebrated in 1965 with a retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Responsive Eye, captured the imagination of the public and sparked a craze for Op designs in fashion and the media. To many, it seemed the perfect style in an age defined by advances in science, computing, space exploration, and television. However, art critics never quite supported it and attacked its influence as gimmicks, and these rejections are still contagious today.

Post-painterly abstraction

Post-painterly abstraction is a broad term that encompasses a number of styles that developed in response to the painterly, gestural approaches of some Abstract Expressionists. Created by Clement Greenberg in 1964, it originally served as the title of an exhibition that featured a number of artists associated with different movements, including color field painting, hard-edged abstraction, and the Washington School of Theater.

Minimalism emerged in New York in the early 1960s among artists who self-consciously renounced the art of the past, which they felt had become stale and academic. A wave of new influences and rediscovered styles has led younger artists to question the traditional boundaries between different mediums. The new art favored the cool over the "dramatic": their sculptures were often made of industrial materials and emphasized anonymity over the expressive exaggeration of Abstract Expressionism. Painters and sculptors avoided overt symbolism and emotional content, instead drawing attention to the materiality of the works. By the late 1970s, minimalism had triumphed in America and Europe under the combined influence of such forces as museum curators, art dealers and publications, and new systems of private and public patronage. And members of a new movement, post-minimalism, have already questioned its authority, thus testifying to how important minimalism itself has become.

Conceptual art is a movement that places ideas above the formal or visual components of artworks. Conceptualism was an amalgamation of different trends rather than a cohesive movement, and took a myriad of forms, such as performances, happenings, and ephemera. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, conceptual artists created works and writings that completely rejected traditional ideas about art. Their main claim - that the formulation of an artistic idea is sufficient as a work of art - meant that aspects such as aesthetics, expression, skill and marketability were all irrelevant standards by which art was generally judged. Simplified so drastically, it may seem to many that what counts as conceptual art is not really "art" at all, just as Jackson Pollock's "drip" paintings or Andy Warhol's Brillo boxes (1964) seemed to contradict what used to be considered art. However, it is important to interpret conceptual art in the context of avant-garde movements (Cubism, Dadaism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop, etc.), which managed to consciously expand the boundaries of art. The Conceptualists placed themselves at the extreme end of this avant-garde tradition. Whether or not this highly intellectual art conforms to one's personal views of what art should be is really irrelevant, for the fact is that conceptual artists have successfully redefined the concept of a work of art to the extent that their efforts are widely recognized by collectors, gallerists, and museum curators. is widely accepted as art.


Many artists practiced and revived aspects of the original Expressionist movement at its peak in the early 20th century, but the most famous return to Expressionism was initiated by Georg Baselitz, who spearheaded the revival that dominated German art in the 1970s. By the 1980s, this revival had become part of an international return to the sensuality of painting - and a move away from the stylistically cool, detached narrowness of Minimalism and Conceptualism. A wide variety of artists, especially in the United States, from Julian Schnabel and Francesco Clemente to Jean-Michel Basquiat, turned in expressive directions to create works that affirmed the redemptive power of art in general and painting in particular, drawing on diverse themes including mythological, cultural, historical, nationalist and erotic themes.

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