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A Brief History Of The Development Of Abstract Painting

Author : Jeff Marks

I heard a story once that abstract painting was started by accident. The story goes that Wassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist at the turn of the 20th century, walked into his studio one day at twilight and saw a painting he was working on in a new perspective. The lighting at this time of day, combined with his angle of approach, made his painting appear as an arrangement of colorful patches that he thought was striking and beautiful. This made him realize that color alone could evoke emotions, the specific content was not necessary. Some say this was the beginning of abstract art, and maybe it was of true, non-representational abstract painting, but there were many things in the art world that were leading that way already.

The transition from representational art (specific, recognizable objects), to abstract art happened slowly. And some artists who were definitely not abstract artists played a role in that transition. The first use and meaning of abstract painting was different than today. Original abstract art portrayed objects that had been taken (abstracted) from nature. The painting did not look totally realistic, you could easily tell the subject of the painting, but it wasn't a direct representation of the subject either.

Some of the first artists to paint in this form are recognizable to almost all, and they would be the Impressionists (originating in 1860) like Monet, Renoir and Cezanne. These artists were especially interested in capturing their sensory impressions using light, color and movement. They liked to paint outdoors and capture the changing light. The Impressionists used lighter and brighter colors than tradition, and the colors were more distinct, with less blending to even out the shades. This form, along with playing with light and movement, led Impressionists away from traditional perspectives.

Soon after the Impressionist movement came the Neo-Impressionists who were influenced by the Impressionist. But instead of being concerned about the light, color and movement, they were more interested in the technical aspects of design and color, and the preparation and planning of the canvas. The strongest characteristic of Neo-Impressionism is the sense of stillness. There were different techniques used by New-Impressionists, but one popular form was Pointillism, where the picture is painted using tiny dots of color on the canvas. The stillness evoked in these paintings, and the lack of precise details, give them the leanings towards abstractionism.

After experimenting with light for 20 years, some of the artists got bored and moved on to Post-Impressionism. Some well-known Post-Impressionists include Van Gough and Gauguin. A distinct characteristic of Post-Impressionism, which is central to an abstract painting, is that the artists were focused more upon evoking feeling and emotions than portraying an image. Though the subject of these paintings are still recognizable, many take on definite abstract attributes.

This subtle shift in the purpose of painting freed many artists to explore further possibilities, and it was only a short time later that Kandinsky began painting what is considered the first abstract painting. Kandisky was a very influential artist, the ideas behind abstract art began to spread quickly and many abstract movements soon followed.

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Here are some great examples of contemporary abstract painting that are on display at Fairhaven Originals Gallery.

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Tags:   Abstract paintings, abstract art, art, impressionism, Monet, Renoir, Kandinsky

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Submitted : 2010-10-05    Word Count : 545    Times Viewed: 658