Abstract Art: A Short Art Appreciation Lesson For Non-Artists

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It means something. It means nothing at all. That was the exact idea behind abstract art. Abstract artists wanted to show that art does not have to represent anything, although it can if you, the viewer, want it to. These artists may give titles to their work, forcing the viewer to see some representation in something that, visually, is not there. They may also just title the work in the most basic of ways, like Piet Mondrian's geometric paintings that just announce the colors on the canvas or Composition # and whatever number he wanted to follow. Yet, what, exactly, is abstract art? Here is a brief art appreciation lesson for all those who feel that they do not know or understand what abstract art is or is not.

Primary Colors

Abstract art uses basic primary colors. Blue, red, yellow, black, white, and sometimes gray dominate the canvases. Sometimes brown or a single bright spot of an out-of-the-ordinary color shows up, but for the most part, abstract art is primary in nature. It is also primary in composition, as you will see.

Geometric Shapes 

Geometric shapes dominate a lot of abstract art. Mondrian was fascinated by rectangles, squares, rhombuses, etc. Other abstract artists, like Robert Delaunay, were intrigued by the prismatic effects of triangles. Picasso loved all shapes and bent them to represent whatever he liked, even if viewers could not see the same thing in the shapes he used. In almost every single abstract painting, you will find at least one example of a geometric shape. 

Abstract Art's Theme

A ruling theme in abstract art was seeing something or asking others to see the same thing in what was on the canvas. Can you see the fire in Paul Klee's Fire in the Evening? Can you see the railroad tracks and signs in Fernand Leger's The Railroad Crossing? How about the curtain in Henri Matisse's The Yellow Curtain? Some can see it, others cannot; that is the whole point. Abstract artists wanted to challenge people to see something or to see nothing at all, as is the case with Kazimir Malevich's Black Square, which, ironically, you can still make out to be something.

Reasons for the Abstract Movement

So many centuries of representing everyday people and things required a change, in the art world. Everyone was bored with looking at naked cherubim and gardens of pretty flowers. Abstract artists pushed boundaries to innovate art, and they succeeded. 

If you appreciated this art appreciation lesson, visit a abstract art gallery to learn more. 


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