Abstract art originated more than a hundred years ago in Europe in 1910s. It was an actual revolution started by the first abstract artists. Artworks of expressionists and cubists were the forerunner of this cultural upheaval. Abstract artists abandoned traditional forms of images that were associated with actually recognizable objects and pictures, and this is what the definition of abstract art is all about. The new approach allows to concentrate on pure color, shape, lines and dynamics. Abstract art gives only hints of reality, letting on imagination to fill in the gaps. Therefore, every abstract painting is aesthetically unique and very expressive.
Wassily Kandinsky, known as one of the most famous abstract artists, was at the forefront of the abstractionism movement. His work, “First Abstract Watercolor”, 1910, was a starting point of a new movement in art. Nowadays, this abstract painting is stored at the Georges Pompidou Centre in Paris.
So far, abstract art is a matter of the dispute although even critics and admirers of traditional art accept the works of famous abstract artists as masterpieces. We present 10 paintings by both modern abstract artists and masters of the past that could help to better understand and appreciate this art style.
1. Wassily Kandinsky, “Improvisation 31" (Sea Battle), 1913, oil on canvas
Kandinsky created dozens of compositions he called «improvisations». He adopted this name from music, indicating the spontaneity of the creative process. In this oil abstract painting, blue strokes and dark straight lines vaguely remind of the sails of a ship.
2. Jackson Pollock, “No. 5”, 1948, oil on fiberboard (composition board)
Jackson Pollock was a famous American abstract painter known for his technique of spraying paint. His painting “No. 5” became the most expensive artwork ever as it was sold for $140 million in 2006.
3. Robert Delaunay, “Windows Open Simultaneously" (First Part, Third Motif), 1912, oil on canvas
This is one of the first abstract paintings of a cityscape. A hint of the outlines of the Eiffel Tower hovers among the multicolored fragments of space. The Eiffel Tower was an important theme of Delaunay’s artwork.
4. Kazimir Malevich, “Suprematist Composition”, 1916, oil on canvas
Suprematism is an art movement founded by Kazimir Malevich. That is what he called abstract compositions, focused on basic geometric forms, such as circles, squares, lines, and rectangles, painted in a limited range of colors. The term itself means a certain superiority and domination. This geometric abstraction is well known all over the world. In 2008 it was sold for $85 million. Thanks to “Black Square” and his other works, Malevich became one of the most famous abstract painters of the 20th century.
5. Mark Rothko, “Orange and Yellow”, 1961, acrylic on canvas
The painting is an example of abstract color painting. The artist himself recommended looking at the canvas from a distance of 45 cm to reach the meditation effect and dissolve in color.
6. Jasper Johns, “False Start”, 1959, oil paints
This painting attributes to abstractionism and the movement of pop art. Expressive colors are combined with the names of the colors written on the canvas. "False Start" was valued at $80 million at the last auction.
7. Gerhard Richter, “Abstrakte Bild”, 1986, oil on canvas
This is an important painting for all contemporary art. For 10 years Gerhard Richter continued to work on a series which includes this famous artwork. The technique of layering paints that Richter used is popular among many contemporary artists.
8. Robert Hardgrave, “Dream Catcher”, 2010, acrylic on canvas
Robert Hardgrave's paintings are an example of acrylic abstract art that resonate with futurism and surrealism. In his art, this American artist was inspired by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Wassily Kandinsky.
9. Osamu Kobayashi, “Slit”, 2020, oil on canvas
Key features of the painting are bright colors and laconic composition. This is typical for the author's style. The artworks of the famous abstract painter Osamu Kobayashi are highly regarded in the USA and Europe.
10. Sarah Spitler, “No name”, oil paints
This painting helps to understand the work of Sarah Spitler. Brush strokes, drops, leaks on a light background give the sense of something floral. However, the painter herself believes that this is an artistic expression of chaos on canvas.
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