by Robert McIntosh14 May '19
Abstract Painting the basics and more…
The Basics of Abstract Painting You Should Know
Abstract painting is considered one of the purest forms of expression, as it allows its creator to freely communicate visually without the constraint of forms found in objective reality. The approaches found within abstract painting encompass many movements including German Expressionism, Fauvism, Cubism, and Abstract Expressionism.
Read on to learn about the history of abstract painting, as well some of its most prominent artists.
A Brief History
Abstract paintings emerged as a departure from Classical and traditional academic painting in Europe during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many renowned artists prior to this time painted following the methods of classical realism, which used realistic perspective, shading, and other techniques in order to create historical scenes and subject matter.
At the turn of the 20th century many artists were going against formal teachings and started to create art that didn’t necessarily refer to objects in the real world. This new way of painting was considered “pure art” due to the subjects deriving entirely from the artists, as opposed to being copied or referenced in the real world.
Emphasizing an artwork’s formal qualities over its representational subject matter, abstract artists experimented with new techniques such as using vivid yet arbitrary colors, reconstructing shapes, and rejecting realistic three-dimensional perspective.
Abstract Painting Techniques & Famous Abstract Painters
German Expressionism + Kandinsky
Experimentation with colors and evoking emotions was a primary interest of abstract artists. German Expressionism is characterized by its saturated palette and the correspondence of the color to human emotions. German Expressionism painter, Wassily Kandinsky is often considered the first abstract artist. He became known for his color theory and attaching emotions to his vividly colored paintings. Like many other abstract artists, Kandinsky believed that music also embodied abstract art in the purest sense, with its ability to be expressive without representing the real world. Kandinsky would go on to refer to his works as “compositions”. It all depends on the perspective, given the fact of second world war, that brought psychological darkness, it may be true pure color and form was their max achievement.
The Expressionist died on December 13, 1944, in Neuilly-sur-Seine at the age of 78 - just a few months after the liberation of Paris. He always referred to abstract painting as the most difficult art form. "It requires that one can draw, that one is highly sensitive for composition and color and that one is a real poet - that's most important."
Well, if you were to look at the works of the German expressionists you may be puzzled as why so much historical context, however, they deserve the credit as veterans, the ones to have taken the road of new discovery and still questionable as the founder of abstract art is Hilma af Klimt who really had something to say as a true artist.
Fauvism and Orphism + Matisse, O’Keeffe, etc.
Crucial to Fauvism and Orphism abstract art is the rejection of three-dimensional perspective. Fauvism depicts objects with intense arbitrary color, while Orphism is characterized by bright patches of color rather than a figurative object.
Henri Matisse was a famous Fauvist and works like his “Dance (II)” (1910) exemplify the movement’s characteristic style. “Creativity takes courage” – these beautiful words of Henri Matisse ring true for every artist. Sure, each of us can define what makes the art good. You can tell the art is good because of its composition. It could be because of the concept. It could be because the art has touched your ever longing soul. The list goes on. In the case of Matisse, one has to look at his work and come up with conclusions.
Famous Orphism painters include Robert Delaunay, whose “Simultaneous Windows on the City” (1912) and “The First Disk” (1912-1913) consist of multiple patches or segments of various colors. “The eye is the most refined of our senses, the one which communicates most directly with our mind, our consciousness.”, the artist says and indeed his work has some interesting ideas. Georgia O’Keeffe is well-known for her colorful, closely cropped abstract flower paintings.
Cubism + Malevich, Mondrian
While former movements within abstract art held loose ties to the representational, Cubism, with its flattened perspective of objects, paved the way for a pure abstract painting in this sense. Russian Suprematist artist Kazimir Malevich furthered this flatness by placing flat colorful shapes on pure white backgrounds in his works. This kind of work could have been performed by any draftsman—and Malevich worked as one in his youth—but most draftsmen are not interested in such simple forms. While De Stijl painter Piet Mondrian painted flat grids to physically create the concept of infinity.
Picasso, in short, was a brash young punk blatantly copying better artists, with no creative thought in his head, repetitively trying to cash in on the ruling trends and fads – mostly, absinthe – which is directly responsible for all of Picasso’s best work, including the “blue period” and the invention of cubism.
Abstract Expressionism + Pollock, de Kooning
Abstract Expressionists approach abstract paintings by experimenting with gesture.
These works were called action paintings because they served as a document of the painters’ literal actions, be it walking around the canvas dripping paint á la Jackson Pollock or revealing the aggressive brushstrokes of Willem de Kooning.
It's interesting to imagine the state of mind artists inhabit while they work. I personally cannot fathom the effects of dementia, but I can only speculate as to how drastically it can alter your conscious mind. Painting under the effects of dementia or any other serious health issue can only provide a truly raw product as the work of William de Kooning.
For all we know, Pollack was simply plastered when painting these "works of art" and he had no idea what he was painting. He even began numbering them instead of naming them because they didn't really have any meaning.
As with other abstract movements, these painters emphasized color and how the work corresponds with their own inner emotions over shape or form. More advanced artists create art particularly stimulating or striking - art that captures a subject and incorporates a message, like Gheorghe Virtosu.
Creativity in abstract painting
Creativity as we call it is inherent in all of us, whether we believe it or not. Search inside yourself, and you will be surprised to see your mind buzzing with ideas. However, it does take a lot of boldness to freely express your ideas and put it in front of the world. In fact, for many of us, our creativity is somehow diluted by the pressure to conform to societal norms or our fear of being judged. So he who is free of this fear can truly be called an artist. After all, a true artist is someone who doesn’t conform to what the world says, but focuses more on what he feels and expresses through his art.
As we said earlier, opinions differ, and people have a right to voice their opinion. So no matter how good or bad you are, you will be judged. However, should you let the fear of being judged deter you?
Many would unwillingly say yes, but if you are true to yourself and your craft, you should not let that fear dictate how you express your ideas.