Abstract art – or Abstract
Expressionism, as the movement is officially known – was conceived in New York,
after the Second World War.
The term ‘abstract
expressionism’ was first used to describe American art by the art critic Robert
Coates in 1946, although it was first used in 1919 in Germany to describe
When was the abstract art movement?
Abstract art has its roots in
some of the early Expressionist paintings of the 1900s – particularly in the
work of Kandinsky – but the movement truly began to flourish in 1940s New York
after the Second World War.
What are the hallmarks of abstract art?
The distinctive feature of abstract
art is that it has no recognisable subject. It’s a visual language that uses
form, colour, line and shape to create an image that has a certain degree of
independence from anything in the identifiable world.
Several abstract artists had
their own theories of how certain shapes and colours were influenced by
emotions and moods.
Contrary to popular belief,
many of their seemingly random – yet vibrant and colourful – splashes and daubs,
were planned to the minutest detail.
Others, however, attacked the
canvas with a free-flowing, energetic impulsiveness in an attempt to capture
subconscious thoughts and emotions.
Examples of abstract art
Mondrian was an abstract
master of geometric shapes and precision. In this iconic work, he creates a
sense of balance through primary colours, white spaces and straight black
lines. He went on to adapt the same
style for a range of other pictures.
Using large blocks of colour,
Mark Rothko created several paintings such as this one. They usually consisted
of a border with the edges of the blocks blurred together. It was up to the
spectator to make their own interpretations, and Rothko imposed no intention or
meaning himself. Simple, effective, and
expensive – in 2007 it sold for £72m.
One of the most famous of all
abstract expressionists, Jackson Pollock had his own distinctive artistic
voice, and his style was later referred to as Action Painting. His No.5 1948 –
which sold for a staggering $140m in 2006 – creates a vibrant weave of textures
and colours, with drizzled brown and yellow paint.
Willem de Kooning
A Dutch artist who became
part of the New York Abstract Expressionist movement, his most famous painting
III, which sold for over $137m in 2006.
Generally regarded as an
Action Painter like Jackson Pollock, Kline was an American painter, primarily
known for his black
and white paintings.
Widely considered as the
father of abstract painting, Kandinsky strived to capture motion and sound in
his art and created some of the first abstract pieces.
Mondrian defined his own
approach to painting as ‘The Style’, utilizing abstract techniques which
involved coloured rectangles and straight lines.
Creating paintings without
using brush strokes, his style would later become defined as Action Painting – he
covered large canvases with dribbles, flecks and splashes of paint.
Rothko’s paintings are
distinctive in their large, vibrant blocks of colour.
you know? Four interesting facts about abstract art:
· Before the Second
World War, Paris had been the epicentre of the prevailing art trends, but was
quickly superseded by New York, which emerged as the major hub for
· Futurism – a
movement which has a lot in common with Abstract art – began in the early 1900s
in Italy. Giacomo Balla was one of its leading exponents.
· An off-shoot of abstract
art – and one of its most extreme styles – was Suprematism. Kasimir Malevich
was a Russian artist who painted in this style, simply a white square painted
onto a white background.
· Renowned abstract
artist, William de Kooning, arrived in America as a stowaway on a boat,
initially earning a living as a house painter.
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