Until the late nineteenth, art was mostly constrained by an accepted view that whatever was created should represent a visual picture of reality. In other words, if it was a painting of a scene of the landscape of Lake Windemere in England the picture should actually look like what the naked eye would see if they were standing on the shore.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century a movement began which saw artists wanting to use a different form of expression to depict the numerous changes which society, science and technology were experiencing. It was in this atmosphere of rapid change that the seeds of the abstract art movement were sown.
Artists began to express themselves in a very different way. Paintings did not follow accepted convention as they depicted people, places and things in an abstract way. Art was no longer a depiction of reality. There are very great differences in the degree of abstraction in art. In some pieces some objects and scenes can be a depiction of reality, but this is mixed with complete abstraction. Paintings no longer looked exactly like the scenes or objects which they were portraying.
Abstract art is now accepted to include other movements including Abstract Expressionism, Cubism and Neoplasticism.
It is universally recognized that a major pioneer in the field of abstract art was Wassily Kandinsky. He was born in Russia in 1866. His work “Picture with a Circle” which he painted in 1911, is recognized as one of the earliest examples of abstract art. This painting is seen as changing the course of art history. It was a first step towards the creation of the Abstract Art movement.
There are some who argue that Abstract Art goes back further than 1911 and Kandinsky. There are some who would say that Turner was in fact the father of the Abstract Art movement as his works featured a non-conventional use of scale and lightning. It is fair to say that most view Kandinsky as the definitive pioneer, not Turner.
Piet Mondrain was another very prominent figure in the Abstract Art movement. Like Kandinsky, he began with conventional figurative painting. He enjoyed commercial success with his conventional works, but wanted to explore the more abstract concepts. He moved from his native Holland to Paris in the early part of the twentieth century and was most particularly influenced by the works of Pablo Picasso. One of Mondrian’s most recognizable works is “Composition with Red Yellow and Blue” which he painted in 1927.
Abstract Expressionism began to emerge in New York during World War II. Prior to the start of the War the abstract at movement was predominantly centered in Paris. Many artists had fled Europe at the start of the Nazi occupation of Europe, and many came to settle in New York. Much of the inspiration was political, which of course is understandable at a time of such worldwide turmoil.
This new Abstract Expressionist movement started in New York City with artists who wanted to harness the power of abstract art to create a strong sense of expressive content. The most famous artists who were part of this early Abstract Expressionism included Jackson Pollok and Franz Kline, Arshille Gorky, Lee Krasner, Frank Kline, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
These artists paid homage to, and were very clearly influenced by, the well-known pioneers of abstract art such as Picasso, Kandinsky and Matisse.
The Abstract Expressionist artist often use unconventional materials in their work. They are also known for very large scale works of art. Whilst many of the works of this genre may at first sight seem to have taken little contemplation, in reality there is a very complex process which is involved in creating abstract art.