When you think of influential artists, who comes to mind? If you think about great artists such as Van Gogh and Monet, you’re not wrong. These two artists are among some of the most well-known artists of all-time.

However, both of these artists had a style of realism that is only one part of art history of the last 150 years. They were considered abstract within their fields, but ultimately represented a type of art called realism. This term typically refers to art that sets out to depict specific objects or settings, maintaining the objects or setting as an integral part of the piece.

Though realism is a very common approach to making art, history has shown that there have been many other styles as well. For example, abstract art was a big topic in the 20th century, attracting controversy and revolutionizing the art world.

To help you learn more about the history of abstract art, here is a list of 3 important abstract art styles:


#1. Dada

In the early 20th century, many artists were interested in using their platforms to make critiques on society and culture. Art was a medium with which they could communicate their feelings about the world, allowing them to use it as a scathing political commentary machine.

After the horror that was World War I, many artists felt alienated by the society that was capable of causing so much destruction and death. In response to this seemingly absurd situation, a group of artists created a new type of abstract art called Dada. This new movement of artists would focus on making art that was as absurd as the life that they were living. For example, artists like Hugo Ball created abstract poetry that involved putting random words together while the visual artist Marcel Duchamp revolutionize the art world with his ready-made works. In particular, Duchamp’s abstract notion of something being art simply because he labeled it so was hugely influential in the art world.


#2. Action Painting

When painting, the focus is traditionally on the canvas, with the artist delicately applying paint to carefully craft an image. However, the early 1900s also brought a lot of commentary on the process of painting, with many artists wondering what would happen if less focus was placed on the image being created and more on the actions that created the painting. By viewing the act of painting as more of a dance and prioritizing physical gestures, artists could create new types of abstract art that reflected the motion of the artist. Jackson Pollock is possibly one of the most significant action painters of the 20th century, throwing his paints around the canvas to create images that were just as complex as the society that surrounded them.


#3. Non-Objective Art

One of the biggest points made by all types of abstract art is that art does not necessarily have to represent certain objects. Instead of viewing art as a lens with which one can view something, modern artists viewed art as a way to experience something. Out of this art viewpoint came the style of non-objective art, a term sometimes used interchangeably with abstract expressionism. Both of those movements involved prioritizing art that made the audience view the work in a certain way.

The meaning of the work was removed from the image, instead encouraging audience members to focus on how the art made them feel. For example, artists such as Mark Rothko created paintings that very deceptively simple in their composition, usually only featuring a few colored panels. However, upon closer inspection it became clear that the works actually had a lot of detail in the way they were constructed. Though there were only a few colors in each piece, observers could see the detailed paint strokes that evoked a mood separate from any concrete narrative. Instead of having to focus on what the painting was about, people could focus solely on how it affected their emotions. These paintings also have a different effect on those who view them in galleries, as they are often large and intimidating in person.

Another prominent figure in Non-Objective Art was Wassily Kandinsky, a painter who utilized shapes to create paintings that were very emotional without having any perceptible narrative. Similar to the aforementioned Rothko pieces, Kadinsky’s paintings expected audience members to not look for a story to follow, but instead the emotions that the painting made them feel.


Preston Zeller

Preston Zeller is an abstract artist, entrepreneur, and founder of Zellerhaus Art. His creative endeavors span music, film, design, photography, and publishing.

Watch "The Art of Grieving" on Amazon Prime


Privacy Preference Center