- abstract art
or nonobjective art or nonrepresentational artArt, including painting, sculpture, and graphic art, that does not represent recognizable objects.In the late 19th century the traditional European conception of art as the imitation of nature was abandoned in favour of the imagination and the unconscious. Abstraction developed in the early 20th century with such movements as Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Futurism. Vasily Kandinsky is credited as the first modern artist to paint purely abstract pictures, с 1910. Piet Mondrian's De Stijl group in The Netherlands widened the spectrum с 1915–20. Abstraction continued to flourish between the two world wars, and after the 1930s it was the most characteristic feature of Western art. After World War II, Abstract Expressionism emerged in the U.S. and had a great influence on European and American painting and sculpture. By the turn of the 21st century, artistic output was varied, with abstract art prominent alongside figurative and conceptual work.
* * *also called nonobjective art or nonrepresentational artpainting, sculpture, or graphic art in which the portrayal of things from the visible world plays no part. All art consists largely of elements that can be called abstract—elements of form, colour, line, tone, and texture. Prior to the 20th century these abstract elements were employed by artists to describe, illustrate, or reproduce the world of nature and of human civilization—and exposition dominated over expressive function.Abstract art has its origins in the 19th century. The period characterized by so vast a body of elaborately representational art produced for the sake of illustrating anecdote also produced a number of painters who examined the mechanism of light and visual perception. The period of Romanticism had put forward ideas about art that denied classicism's emphasis on imitation and idealization and had instead stressed the role of imagination and of the unconscious as the essential creative factors. Gradually many painters of this period began to accept the new freedom and the new responsibilities implied in the coalescence of these attitudes. Maurice Denis (Denis, Maurice)'s statement of 1890, “It should be remembered that a picture—before being a war-horse, a nude, or an anecdote of some sort—is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order,” summarizes the feeling among the Symbolist and Postimpressionist artists of his time.All the major movements of the first two decades of the 20th century, including Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Futurism, in some way emphasized the gap between art and natural appearances.There is, however, a deep distinction between abstracting from appearances, even if to the point of unrecognizability, and making works of art out of forms not drawn from the visible world. During the four or five years preceding World War I, such artists as Robert Delaunay, Wassily Kandinsky (Kandinsky, Wassily), Kazimir Malevich, and Vladimir Tatlin turned to fundamentally abstract art. (Kandinsky is generally regarded as having been the first modern artist to paint purely abstract pictures containing no recognizable objects, in 1910–11.) The majority of even the progressive artists regarded the abandonment of every degree of representation with disfavour, however. During World War I the emergence of the de Stijl group in The Netherlands and of the Dada group in Zürich further widened the spectrum of abstract art.Abstract art did not flourish between World Wars I and II. Beset by totalitarian politics and by art movements placing renewed emphasis on imagery, such as Surrealism and socially critical Realism, it received little notice. But after World War II an energetic American school of abstract painting called Abstract Expressionism emerged and had wide influence. Since the 1950s abstract art has been an accepted and widely practiced approach within European and American painting and sculpture. Abstract art has puzzled and indeed confused many people, but for those who have accepted its nonreferential language there is no doubt as to its value and achievements. See also modern art.
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