Abstract art is an art form based on non-realistic portrayals, rather than visually accurate depictions of objects or scenes. Popularized in the 20th century, abstract art has become iconic, including the works of such renowned artists as Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian. Much of the work of abstract artists and painters is based on the concept that shape, color and texture have inherent value in their own rights, and can provoke a response even when used to create unidentifiable or non-realistic work.
The movement toward abstract art grew from the impressionism and post-impressionism periods of the 19th century, when color and style became more important than accurate depiction. Painters like Monet, Seurat and Cezanne are often cited as influences on the movement, as they chose to emphasize the inherent artistic point of view that is involved in creating a work of art, as well as in the work itself.
Interestingly, abstract art as a valid form seemed to spring up simultaneously around the Western world in the first decades of the 20th century, leading to considerable debate regarding who was the first truly abstract artist. Because the form is so variable in technique and medium, classification as to semi-abstract and fully abstract works is often confusing and misleading. The form encompasses several different styles, including cubism, neo-impressionism, and orphism.
Iconic images of abstract art are familiar to any fan of 20th century artwork. Vibrant splashes and splatters of color dance across the canvases of famed painter Jackson Pollock, while simple geometric shapes in bright and brilliant colors mark the work of Piet Mondrian and Dutch master Theo Van Doesburg. The work may include mixed-medium components, including metals, photographs, random manufactured objects, and paper mache.
Abstract art is a controversial form, particularly to those rooted in a concept of art as a faithful depiction of scenes or objects. A far cry from the portraits of Hans Holbein or the incredibly detailed still life scenes of the 17th and 18th centuries, abstract art often shows no fixed or identifiable object. This can lead to serious criticism among some, exasperated in the idea that they should be able to find beauty or an emotional response in something unrecognizable. Yet abstract work can be strangely freeing, according to some experts. Not having fixed objects that you can associate with reality, the viewer becomes in tune with other things, like color, shape and form.
If you enjoy art and wish to broaden your experience with modern work, contact your local modern art museum to see if they have any examples of abstract artworks for you to view. Many experts believe that abstract paintings and sculptures must be seen in person, as size, scale and lighting can be enormous factors in their affect. Seeing great artwork can be an emotional and enlightening experience, even if the form is not something you understand or have ever truly examined. By opening yourself to the experience of this unusual and highly individualized sector of the art world, you may discover a passion and appreciation for abstract art that will broaden your artistic horizons forever.