The History of Abstract Art

Although abstract art has arguably always been around, what we think of as abstract art arose at the end of the 19th century. Artists like James Whistler created paintings that were geared towards creating a visual impact, and were less concerned with accurately depicting an object. In England, JMW Turner captured the industrial revolution by painting pictures of trains that obscured the landscape and instead created an atmosphere of action and rapid movement.

Impressionists like Monet and Pissarro sought to accurately portray landscapes and objects, but using techniques that differed from before: visible brush strokes where the colors were unblended. This led to post-Impressionist painters like Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, who threw off the reins to experiment with vibrant colors, bold lines and shifts in perspective and subject matter, taking abstract art in a wide array of different directions.

abstract art

From there, artists like Picasso and Georges Braque really pushed the boundaries of representation, portraying objects using geometric shapes to make it seem as though they were being viewed from multiple perspectives at once. Other painters, such as Hilma af Klint, Wassily Kandinsky and Henri Matisse explored realms that were almost purely abstract. They realized that the arrangement of colors and shapes could have a powerful impact, even if they didn’t try to show an object or person.

This paved the way for Mondrian to compose his famous geometric paintings made of simple lines and rectangles, whereas artists like Miró produced paintings that were a reflection of their “unconscious thoughts,” experimenting with the notions of chance and spontaneity. This gave rise to artists like Mark Rothko, who sought to evoke emotion through his works featuring large blocks of color, and Jackson Pollock, who splattered paint across his canvas according to seemingly random gestures.

Abstract art took off from there into many different directions, and continues to be explored today. There’s no doubt you can find many different styles of abstract art that represents your aesthetic, and accentuates the décor in your home. For a great jumping-off point on how to incorporate abstract pieces into your home, see our selection of artistic wall designs, illuminated paintings and window art curtains, and turn your home into your own personal art gallery.