The Art Movements That Defined Abstract Art in the 20th Century
Abstract Art
26 December '18
art themes at virtosu art gallery

by Alina Livneva

26 December '18

The Art Movements That Defined Abstract Art in the 20th Century

Abstract Art

Abstract art has always been a topic of great debate in the art world. People have hotly argued both for it and against it. Here's an article that discusses the significant moments from the history of Abstract art. So, you can form an informed opinion!

Abstract art uses shapes, lines, and colors to depict imagery that is separate from reality. The word 'abstract' means to exist without a physical form. At the beginning of the 20th century, the new inventions in science and technology, as well as the radical changes in ideologies, had to find representation in the arts.


Fauvism and Cubism were defining Movements for abstract art. The term Fauvism comes from 'Les Fauves’ or the Wild Beasts. Les Fauves were a group of modern art artists who used strong colors and painterly qualities rather than the realistic values in an artwork. André Derain and Henri Matisse were the leaders of this movement. Matisse’s ‘Woman with a Hat' is a famous example of this movement.


Cubism is considered to be one of the most influential art movements of all time. Abstract artists Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque started this movement in the early 20th century. Cubist painters wanted to highlight the two-dimensional nature of the canvas. So, the objects were broken down into geometric forms. The artists also used contrasting perspectives for effect. Girl with a Mandolin by Pablo Picasso is an example of this style.

Girl with a Mandolin
Girl with a Mandolin by Pablo Picasso


Orphism concentrated on pure abstraction and bright colors. Also, know as Orphic Cubism, the style was greatly influenced by Fauvism and has its roots in Cubism. Abstract artists Frantisek Kupka, Robert Delaunay, and Sonia Delaunay are considered to be the pioneers of the Orphism Movement. Robert Delaunay's abstract painting 'Simultaneous Windows on the City' and Sonia Delaunay's 'Prismes électriques' are famous examples of the style.


Neoplasticism or De Stijl was an artistic movement started by artists and architects, in Leiden, Netherlands. Advocates of pure abstraction; these artists used only black, white and primary colors. 'Composition en couleur' by Piet Mondrian is in this style. The Rietveld Schröder House by Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld is an example of De Stijl in architecture.


Suprematism was an art movement that utilized basic geometric shapes. The artists applied a limited range of colors. Kazimir Malevich, a Russian avant-garde artist, founded the movement. His painting, 'The Black Square' is an iconic painting of that era.


Synchromism was a short-lived art movement started by Americans Stanton MacDonald-Wright and Morgan Russell. The artists paralleled music and color, basing their art on the idea that the arrangement of colors in a painting is the same as notes in a symphony. Stanton MacDonald-Wright's 'Airplane Synchromy in Yellow-Orange' is displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Stanton MacDonald-Wright
Stanton MacDonald-Wright
Morgan Russell
Morgan Russell


Modernism was a Philosophical movement that influenced the cultural trends of the 19th and 20th centuries. Modernism also prompted other styles like Pop Art and Digital Art. Minimalism is an art movement that began in the post–World War II Western art world. Yves Klein was a pioneer of minimal art.

Abstract Expressionism

Abstract Expressionism is another art movement in American painting. It was the first American art movement to gain momentum internationally. The movement is also considered to be a predecessor to Surrealism. Abstract expressionists Jackson Pollock was an influential figure in art history.

Romanticism, Impressionism, and Expressionism

Art movements like Romanticism, Impressionism, and Expressionism contributed to the development of Abstract Art. Artists from the western world were also greatly influenced by arts from other cultures. Movements like Dadaism and Surrealism find their origins in Abstract Art.

About author Alina Livneva was born 1985 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. She studied at Saint Petersburg Academy of Arts. Educated in Russia and the United States. Lives in Miami. Has also lived in Russia. Collections expert, exhibitions and loans. E:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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