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What is modern abstract art ? Definition, Evolution & Famous Examples


A Short History of Abstraction

Abstract art marks a radical departure from traditional representation of physical objects, evolving as a distinct art form in the early 20th century. This movement represented a major shift in art history, as artists moved away from depicting realistic forms, focusing instead on expressing emotions, ideas, and abstract concepts. Key precursors to this movement include Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, which began to challenge the norms of fine art by prioritizing emotion and individual perspective over realistic representation.

Still Life with Compote and Glass (Nature morte au compotier)

Pablo Picasso's 'Still Life with Compote and Glass' is a prime example of the transition towards abstract art. In this work, Picasso deconstructs a traditional still life, rearranging its elements in a way that distorts and totally abstracts their form. This piece not only demonstrates the shift from representational to abstract art but also showcases the innovative use of perspective and form that would become hallmarks of the abstract movement.

The Early 20th Century Avant-Garde

The Avant-Garde movement, characterized by its radical and non-conformist approach, played a pivotal role in the evolution of modern abstract art itself. This period saw the emergence of revolutionary art movements such as Cubism, led by artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, who broke objects into abstract forms. Futurism in Italy, and Constructivism in Russia, also contributed significantly to abstract art, each exploring new artistic languages and methodologies.

WATCH: How to Interpret Sound to Create Abstract Art

This segment can explore the fascinating intersection of sound and visual art, particularly focusing on how auditory experiences can be translated into visual abstract forms. It can delve into examples of contemporary artists who use sound waves, music, and even silence as inspiration for their abstract creations, discussing how these elements influence the composition, color, and texture of their artwork.



The Rise of Abstract Expressionism Art

Abstract Expressionism emerged in the 1940s as a major movement, particularly in the United States, marked by artists' interest in spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation. This movement, featuring artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko, shifted the focus from the traditional forms to more abstract and expressive ones, with techniques like action painting and color field painting becoming prominent.

The Important Artists and Works of Abstract Art

This section would elaborate on key figures in the abstract art movement, such as Wassily Kandinsky, often credited as one of the pioneers of modern art, and their major works. It would also discuss their influence on the movement, their unique approaches to abstraction, and how they each contributed to the development and evolution of abstract art.

Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue

Piet Mondrian's 'Composition with Large Red Plane, Yellow, Black, Gray, and Blue' exemplifies the De Stijl movement’s focus on pure abstraction through geometric forms. This painting uses geometric shapes, a combination of horizontal and vertical lines and primary colors to convey a sense of harmony and balance, demonstrating Mondrian’s unique approach to abstract art.



Group IV, The Ten Largest, No. 7, Adulthood

This painting by Hilma af Klint, a visionary in the realm of abstract art, represents a bold exploration into spiritual and abstract concepts. Part of a larger series created paintings, this work delves into the themes of human development and spiritual evolution through abstract forms and vibrant colors, showcasing af Klint's innovative approach to abstraction.

A personal point of view…

In this section, reflect on the personal impact of abstract art. Discuss how abstract art offers a unique experience to each viewer, capable of evoking a range of emotions and thoughts. This can include personal anecdotes or experiences with specific pieces or exhibitions that have left a lasting impression.

If You Love Art History…

For enthusiasts of art history, the journey of abstract art offers a fascinating narrative of innovation and revolution in visual arts. This section can explore how abstract art has continuously challenged and redefined our understanding of art history, representing a significant departure from the traditional narrative of art forms and influencing a wide array of contemporary artistic practices.

Early Photography and Academic Art

Discuss the influence of early photography on the evolution of abstract art. With the advent of photography capturing reality more precisely, artists felt compelled to explore beyond the confines of realism. This era of abstract painting also saw a reaction against the rigid constraints of academic art, further propelling artists towards the exploration of abstraction as a form of expression and rebellion.

Abstract Expressionism

Expand on the theme of Abstract Expressionism, a significant art movement that flourished post-World War II, primarily in American painting. Emphasizing spontaneous, automatic, or subconscious creation, this movement had a profound impact on the art world. Key figures like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning and their works can be discussed in detail, highlighting how abstract paintings and their approaches embodied the spirit of the movement.

Abstraction and Spirituality

Examine the relationship between abstract art and spirituality, discussing how many abstract artists used their work to convey spiritual and metaphysical ideas. This section can explore various artists and movements that have used abstraction as a means to transcend the physical world and express concepts that are difficult to articulate in more representational art forms.

Art Informel

Art Informel, also known as Tachisme, emerged as a powerful force in the European art scene during the post-World War II era, particularly in the 1940s and 1950s. As a movement, it represented a significant shift in the approach to painting, characterized by a spontaneous and intuitive style. This style was marked by loose brushwork, drips, splatters, and a seemingly random application of paint, emphasizing the artist's physical engagement with the materials.

The movement was a response to the rigid structures and ideologies that had led to the war, reflecting a collective desire for freedom and individual expression. Art Informel artists sought to break free from traditional artistic constraints, allowing emotion and instinct to guide their creative process. This approach resulted in artworks that were deeply personal and subjective, often evoking a sense of raw, unmediated expression.

Key figures in the Art Informel movement include Jean Dubuffet and the artist Antoni TĂ pies. Dubuffet, with his Art Brut (Raw Art) philosophy, championed a form of creation that was untainted by classical standards, drawing inspiration from art made by children and the mentally ill. His work often featured thick, textural surfaces, incorporating materials like sand and tar, which added a tactile dimension to his paintings.

Antoni TĂ pies, on the other hand, was known for his mixed-media approach, integrating unconventional materials like marble dust, clay, and found objects into his paintings. His work is characterized by a deep engagement with the materiality of the surface, creating a dialogue between the physicality of the materials and the abstract imagery.

The influence of Art Informel extended far beyond artists working its immediate circle. It paved the way for later movements like Abstract Expressionism and influenced the development of performance art and conceptual art. By prioritizing the act of creation over the finished product, Art Informel artists redefined the boundaries of what could be considered art and opened up new possibilities for artistic expression.

Abstract Sculpture

In the realm of abstract sculpture, artists such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth made groundbreaking contributions. These artists moved away from the traditional representational forms of sculpture, opting instead to explore abstraction through an emphasis on form, texture, and material.

Henry Moore's sculptures are characterized by their organic, flowing forms abstract compositions, often inspired by the natural world and the human body. His works, typically made from materials like bronze, stone, and wood, are notable for their smooth surfaces and undulating contours. Moore's sculptures often play with negative space, creating a sense of openness and interaction with the environment.

Barbara Hepworth, a contemporary of Moore, was known for her elegant, abstract forms. Her sculptures often feature hollow spaces and pierced forms, creating a unique interplay of light and shadow. Hepworth's work is deeply tactile, inviting viewers to experience the sculpture not just visually but through touch as well.

These artists’ contributions to modern abstract sculpture were significant. They challenged conventional ideas about sculpture, particularly the notion that sculpture should be a solid, unbroken mass. Their exploration of voids, textures, and organic forms had a lasting impact on the development of modern sculpture, influencing generations of artists and continuing to resonate in contemporary sculptural practices.



Abstract Photography

Abstract photography marks a bold departure from the traditional norms of photographic representation. In this genre, photographers employ various techniques like motion blur, manipulation of light, extreme close-ups, and digital alteration to transform ordinary subjects into unrecognizable forms. This approach to photography transcends the usual constraints of the medium, allowing photographers to explore composition, texture, and color in novel ways.

One key aspect of the abstract style of photography is its ability to isolate and magnify certain visual elements, such as patterns, textures, and shapes, often obscuring the original context of the subject. This detachment from reality invites viewers to engage with the image on a purely aesthetic level, often evoking emotions and interpretations that are unanchored from the actual subject matter.

Abstract photography also plays with the idea of perception. By distorting or removing recognizable elements visual reality, it challenges viewers to question what they see, prompting a deeper engagement with the image. This form of photography can transform mundane subjects into intriguing works of art, revealing the extraordinary in the ordinary.

The evolution of technology has expanded the possibilities of abstract photography, with digital cameras and editing software offering new ways to create paintings manipulate images. This has led to a growing interest in the genre, as photographers continue to push the boundaries of what can be achieved.


In conclusion, abstract art represents not just a significant shift in artistic expression but also a profound transformation in the way artists and audiences engage with art. From its early beginnings in the 20th century to its pervasive influence on contemporary art, what is modern abstract art now continues to be a vital and evolving force in the art world.

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