by Alina Livneva12 June '18
The World Most Famous Abstract Artists
All time abstract art famous artists
Abstract art is a visualization of color and form, an artwork independent from references to the real world. Most of the traditional art is tied to logic and depicts reality as we perceive it.
Since the invention of the photo camera, the art realm was in search of a next strong trend that today we call abstract art. Another explanation for the growing prevalence of the abstract in modern art – is the society response to, and a reflection of, the growing abstraction of social relations nowadays.
An expression connecting the feelings and vibes than the usual perception of realism. Abstract painting is a non-figurative art; it is not either objective or representational. The viewer perception is one of departure from the imagery of reality. It places your mind in a continuum of energetic inflow or outflow.
One could say abstract art is artists drawing how they feel. Abstraction is not about making copies of real life either about giving the impression. In fact, depending on the artists, abstraction became about the process itself. Below are the most famous abstract artists and their work:
Famous Abstract Artists List & Abstract art examples
The famous list shall start with Hilma af Klint (1862-1944), Swedish artist, is considered to be the founder of Abstract painting. Hilma Af Klint and four other young female artists organized the group “Five.” The mission of the group was to research spiritual aspects of culture and develop the practice of automatic drawing – the technique, which later became associated with Andre Breton and Surrealists. Klint believed herself to be a medium, claiming invisible powers translated their messages from her.
According to the will of Hilma, her abstract painting works mustn’t be publicly demonstrated until twenty years after her death. Because of that, it is Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) German-Russian master, who was named the pioneer of the Abstract art.
Born on December 4, 1866, in Moscow, Russia. Died on December 13, 1944, in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.He wasn’t just a painter, but a mystic, theosophist, and art theorist. His views on art were expressed in his “Concerning the Spiritual in Art” book. Believing spiritual, transcendent content to be the crucial part of the painting, he insisted it can be expressed most accurately by the direct psychophysical influence of pure color accords and visual rhythms. His “impressions”, “improvisations” and “compositions”, as Kandinsky used to title his series of works, were based on the highly stylized allusion of mountainous scenery, which seems to vanish in clouds. All these create the illusion of the cosmic non-existence, which absorbs the viewers’ attention. The dramaturgy of paintings and watercolors of the master is orchestrated using the play of color spots, dots, and symbols.
Wassily Kandinsky lived in Germany during the Bauhaus movement. The artist believed that complete abstraction offered the possibility for very deep, transcendental expression and that copying from the material world would interfere with the process. He was determined in creating art that would communicate an overall feeling of spirituality, thus the master innovated a canvas language that would relate to the outside world.
Kandinsky was the father of so-called lyrical abstraction, defined by softness and delicacy of the visual language. It was opposed by geometric abstract painting, founded by one of the famous geometric abstract artists Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). A Dutch master, he suggested the artistic system, called Neoplasticism. As well as lyrical abstraction, it also depicted the ideal world. But it was a different world – rough, rational and severe. His paintings were the hints at the upcoming totalitarian systems.
Vincent van Gogh
The next on the list of abstract artists is Vincent van Gogh, another French artist, is an example of Post-Impressionism. Vincent van Gogh focused more on color and light in his works, giving the impression of light dancing on the fields and meadows he drew. The artist had a very limited following during his lifetime, however, Vincent van Gogh 's artistic style had a huge impact on many artists who followed. His works established or laid the foundation for the development of the Fauvism, Expressionism, and Modernism. These are the art schools of the 20th century. Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890).
Theo van Doesburg
The ideas of Neoplasticism were also developed by another painter from Netherlands – Theo van Doesburg (1883-1931). He formulated the theoretical bases of Neoplasticism in the articles, published in “De Stijl” magazine. Theo van Doesburg described his own vision of beauty, which has to accurately reflect the absolute laws of Life. The master saw the greatest flaw of the contemporary culture in the fact it attempts to anthropomorphize the world, whilst it has no certain appearance. Those laws are plastically represented through numbers and figures. Straight lines and spectral colours were the basic elements of that visual Universe.Theo van Doesburg assumed them to be the only elements that reveal the truth about existence, hiding the distracting flourish of the surrounding reality. Therefore, the target of any artist is to pave the way to those hidden values.
Paul Klee (1879-1940) was a Swiss painter and graphic artist, who managed to combine the ideas of lyrical and geometric abstraction. Paul Klee taught together with Kandinsky, working on his visual theory, according to which the morphogenesis in art and nature is rooted in the same rules- the rules of harmony.Paul Klee was a master of finding the most sublime connections between tone and rhythm. The rhythm was the core of Paul Klee canvases that helped organize the expressive merge of yellow, orange and brownish hues.
Robert Delaunay (1885-1941), a prominent French master, was inspired by the theory of Simultanism, formulated by a chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul. The theory explained the peculiarities of our color perception with the influence of the surrounding hues. Delaunay used this concept in his paintings, composing them of the concentric circles. Their palette consisted of the so-called simultaneous contrasts, which created the impression of motion. Guillaume Apollinaire named the new style “Orphism” (also known as Orphic Cubism). The title referred not only to the enigmatic effect of the pieces: Delaunay’s works ‘sounded,’ as if spreading from the center. Some of the researches mention Robert Delaunay was one of the first artists, who approached the idea of ‘pure painting’ – complete autonomy of an art piece and its means of expression. For sure, other artists used to non-figurative images, however, it was Delaunay, who made color ‘the first flute’ of his creative orchestra, the defining part of his art. His fascination with color was similar to the one Fauvists, like Henri Matisse, had. It was the factor, which underlines the distance between the Modernist and traditional art: the latter saw color as the mere supplement to drawing.
One of the followers of Orphism was Frantisek Kupka (1871-1957) – the Czech painter. He moved to Paris in 1894, where he received artistic training. Being interested in theosophy, he also was well-acquainted with the variety of scientific theories of light and color. They prompted Frantisek Kupka to shift from symbolism and Neo-Impressionism to nonfigurative compositions.
Arshile Gorky was born in the village of Khorgom (today's Dilkaya), situated on the shores of Lake Van in the Ottoman Empire. In 1915, Arshile Gorky fled Lake Van during the Armenian Genocide and escaped with his mother into Russian-controlled territory. Due to the economic and political reasons, after the WW I, the international artistic center gradually moved from Paris across the ocean – to the US. Before that period, Europeans were the main trendsetters in painting, however, in the 1930s – 1940s
Gorky immersed his public right into the pulsating flow of the intensively colored shapes. They vaguely reminded some biomorphic structures, as Arshile Gorky aspired to depict his personal trauma, as well as the senses nostalgia for the lost Motherland and anxiety.
In circles of Gertrude Stein, he rapidly transitioned from Neo-Impressionism. He was in constant search of pictorial solutions and in dialogue with his friend Georges Braque, Picasso melded forms he saw in African sculpture with the multiple perspectives he gleaned from Paul Cézanne, to produce Cubism. Not limited to painting, the artist also expressed himself through collage, sculpture, and ceramics.
Franz Kline produced his first abstract canvases in the late 1940s. They were noticeable for the large-scale and amplified contrast of large, bold brushstrokes. Franz Kline limited himself with the minimum of visual instruments to make the viewer’s experience even stronger. He juxtaposes his paintings that represent the author’s gesture with the utmost strength, to the surrounding world, formed by the standardized images of mass culture.
Another prominent representative of the Post-war American abstract art was Mark Rothko (1903-1970). Born Markuss Rotkovičs; similar to Gorky, he was the son of the immigrants from the Russian Empire. As many of the above-mentioned masters, Rothko started as a rather traditional painter. Slowly, the influence of the European Surrealists and Nietzsche's philosophy catalyzed changes in the artist’s creative approach, resulting in the first abstractions dedicated to Antique mythology. Finally, he completely rejected figurative imagery, concentrating on color and its ability to communicate emotions and directly affect the recipient. By the early 1950s, Rothko found his recognizable style:
Such effect of floating in the eternal color space is reflected in the title of the painting movement Rothko gave birth to – Colour field painting.
Among the most significant masters, who defined the development of Colour field painting in the USA we should mention the name of Barnett Newman (1905-1970). Similar to Gorky or Rothko, Barnett Newman ’s way to success was complicated, as the master had to face the public’s unacceptance and misunderstanding of his artistic philosophy. He had his first solo exhibition at the age of 45, and it received harsh criticism.
As Russian-German philosopher and art critic Boris Groys noted, Barnett Newman completely ousted any anthropomorphic elements from his works, turning painting in what it is supposed to be – color applied over the surface. But the artist himself didn’t put the formal side of his pieces in the first place, believing them to be symbolical. He preferred metaphorical and meaningful titles that had to unveil the intellectual and poetical side of the abstractions.
If Kline, Rothko, Newman tried to demonstrate the self-standing nature of painting as an object, another American master Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) moved the focus from the result to the process. Pollock introduced the new way of rendering a piece: he took canvas from the wall and put it on the floor. This way the author appears inside the canvas and gets the new angle of its perception. Pollock was driven by the desire to find the style, which wouldn’t replicate European samples and reflect the American spirit. He referred to the local historical heritage, like shamanic practices of the indigenous tribes. Mixing it with the postulates of psychoanalysis and Jungian archetypes, he came to the idea of ‘dripping technique,’ when the paint was dripped and poured on the canvas. This allowed establishing the direct connection between the artist’s movement and inner state, and their visual traces on canvas. That is why Pollock ’s method received the name of ‘action painting’ – one needs to analyze it from the processual side to get the full grasp of a piece.
Nicolas de Stael
Now it was Europeans’ turn to respond to the new art tendencies brought over the Atlantic. Tachism or Art Informel was the European version of Abstract Expressionism. It was represented by the whole number of the outstanding painters, but probably it is Nicolas de Stael (1914-1955), who is best-known to the wide public. He was the son of Russian immigrants from France. The decisive point for the formation of Nicolas de Stael as a painter was moving to Nice. In the early stages of his career, Nicolas de Stael was inspired by Byzantine art. Having an amazing sense of freedom both in his mind and in his hands, the artist originates his own poetic language. Like an alchemist, he explored the energy of color and paint’s structure. In his first abstractions, pigments are applied with a palette knife in thick irregular ‘bricks,’ combined with the inlays of goldish hues as the homage to the tradition of Byzantine mosaic.
Later he found the balance between abstract form and figurative subjects that seem to ‘accidently’ evolve out of the relief-like texture of the canvases. By the mid-1950s, the master returned from palette knife to brush, rendering the ephemerally translucent surfaces.
Another artist, whose vision emerged under the azure sky of the South of France, was Yves Klein (1928-1962). Born in Nice, he moved to Paris, where found a small studio. As the legend says, since it was in the basement of the building and had no windows, Yves Klein painted its ceiling in blue color in order not to be overly depressed. This how his pursuit of the very-own ideal hue to express the immateriality and infinity of space began. With the help of Rhone Poulenc pharmaceutical company, the master manufactured International Klein Blue (IKB) color. Its vibrancy brought fame to Yves Klein ’s monochrome canvases and objects. He also used it in the performances, where models covered themselves with the pigment and then painted with bodies over canvases as a kind of human brushes.
Born in Rodez, Aveyron, in 1919, Pierre Soulages is also known as "the painter of black". By their meditative atmosphere, abstract compositions of Pierre Soulages (b. 1919) are different and at the same time similar to those by Yves Klein. If the latter glorified color, Pierre Soulages has always favored black. It was applied broadly and confidently, with wide brushes or even mop-like ones. None of his contemporaries has ever used black so radically.
Man Ray was one of the famous Surrealist artists. Surrealism was a movement that included visual arts and writing that developed in the 1920s. The artist career is special above all for the success he had achieved in the United States and Europe. He matured in the center of American modernism in the 1910s, he moved to Paris in the 20s to 30s, and in the 1940s he went back, staying in New York and Hollywood. His art is diverse from film, painting, sculpture, and in his career, he used styles influenced by Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. The artist established in the worlds of commercial and fine art and became a sought-after fashion photographer.
Gheorghe Virtosu is one of the famous contemporary abstract artists. He is the master who does not deny reality in his abstract painting. The artist paints under the impulse of revelation-ideas born as sparks impossible to control, which light an entire series of subsequent actions. He admits that changes can occur during the artistic process, especially regarding the dimensions and colors used, but sustains that the spark, as a moment of inspiration, is the one deciding how the work will eventually look.
He works outside of time, outside of any canons, rules, norms. He does not affiliate itself to any style; he works freely, under the impulse of suffering, hoping that his message will be perceived as a positive one – a struggle that must never be abandoned.
Abstract Art in Postmodern World
These abstract artists changed the way we think about painting. The magnetism of abstract art is its ability to inspire our subconscious curiosity that reaches our imagination. We have the ability to create unique things in the world. Abstract work communicates with the viewer in an attempt of the last to understand reality. Reality is subjective, so the viewer defines it to its own perception.
The 21st Century saw a strong emergence of different art, as progress brought in new opportunities. It took different shapes depending on the period, as we are in the postmodern world, abstract art is set to further evolve. Today visionary artists always react to the developments in society they live in. We expect to see new great abstract forms like Virtosu's symbolism.
Abstract art is a miracle. A painting means something! The greatness of abstraction is one of the most moving achievements of modern times. Same as people get connected to music vibes it happens with abstract art. For the viewer, the artwork is like music to the ear.
To define meanings, down to our knowledge, one needs the generosity of spirit to accept what isn’t immediately understandable.