What is Abstract Art?


Abstract Art is a 20th-century movement characterised by the reduction of natural appearances into simplified forms; for example, constructing art on the basis of geometric shapes or intuitive gestures. Abstract art movement is also known as the abstract expressionism. The abstract art movement started in 1940s in New York City. It was flourished in the country after the World War II ended.

You will see no image in abstract art. The typical characteristics of abstract art are that they are defined with shapes, lines and colours. Even though there is no image, artists can depict the emotion without any subject. Emotions can be defined by shapes and colours. You often find ‘randomness’ used to present emotion. 

Wassily Kandinsky is often regarded as the pioneer of European abstract art. Kandinsky claimed, erroneously as it turns out, that he produced the first abstract painting in 1911: ‘back then not one single painter was painting in an abstract style’ – it can be argued that the roots of this movement are to be found deeper still and if recent news is to be believed, the Neanderthals were already cutting abstract lines into stone.


As visual art becomes more abstract, it develops some characteristics of music: An art form which uses the abstract elements of sound and divisions of time.  Wassily Kandinsky, himself a musician, was inspired by the possibility of marks and associative colour resounding in the soul. Charles Baudelaire, suggested that all our senses respond to various stimuli but the senses are connected at a deeper aesthetic level.

Closely related to this, is the idea that art has The spiritual dimension and can transcend ‘every-day’ experience, reaching a spiritual plane. The Theosophical Society popularised the ancient wisdom of the sacred books of India and China in the early years of the century. It was in this context that Piet Mondrian, Wassily Kandinsky, Hilma af Klint and other artists working towards an ‘objectless state’ became interested in the occult as a way of creating an ‘inner’ object. The universal and timeless shapes found in geometry: the circle, square and triangle become the spatial elements in abstract art; they are, like colour, fundamental systems underlying visible reality.


Abstraction indicates a departure from reality in depiction of imagery in art. This departure from accurate representation can be slight, partial, or complete. Abstraction exists along a continuum. Even art that aims for verisimilitude of the highest degree can be said to be abstract, at least theoretically, since perfect representation is likely to be exceedingly elusive. Artwork which takes liberties, altering for instance colour and form in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognisable.

However, the emphasis on these elements varies. Some are partially hidden; others are very dark against a lighter value. When using an overall design, take care to make sure there aren’t too many elements that are the same—or you risk confusing or boring the viewer.

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