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Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 in TellMeWhy |

What exactly is Abstract Art?

What exactly is Abstract Art?

What exactly is Abstract Art? Abstract art is painting or sculpture which does not represent things in the way the eye sees them, but instead concentrates on arrangements of shapes and colors for their own sake. All good paintings are concerned with arrangements of that kind to some extent and, in reality; abstract art differs from representational art only in concentrating on this aspect to the exclusion of others.

In the West, abstract art is a recent development, no older than this century, though there are several quite different kinds. It is sometimes difficult to decide what art is truly and what simply pattern is making. Much Islamic art is abstract because Muhammad condemned the maker of images, who tries to imitate God by creating living beings. This did not mean that Islamic artists should never make pictures of people, only of idols. Nevertheless, no pictures of people are to be found in Islamic religious art.

Abstract art uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Western art had been, from the Renaissance up to the middle of the 19th century, underpinned by the logic of perspective and an attempt to reproduce an illusion of visible reality. The arts of cultures other than the European had become accessible and showed alternative ways of describing visual experience to the artist.

individual artists

By the end of the 19th century many artists felt a need to create a new kind of art which would encompass the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science and philosophy. The sources from which individual artists drew their theoretical arguments were diverse, and reflected the social and intellectual preoccupations in all areas of Western culture at that time.

Abstract art, non-figurative art, non-objective art, and nonrepresentational art are loosely related terms. They are similar, but perhaps not of identical meaning. 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 color and form in ways that are conspicuous, can be said to be partially abstract. Total abstraction bears no trace of any reference to anything recognizable. In geometric abstraction, for instance, one is unlikely to find references to naturalistic entities. Figurative art and total abstraction are almost mutually exclusive. But figurative and representational (or realistic) art often contains partial abstraction.

Both geometric abstraction and lyrical abstraction are often totally abstract. Among the very numerous art movements that embody partial abstraction would be for instance fauvism in which color is conspicuously and deliberately altered vis-a-vis reality, and cubism, which blatantly alters the forms of the real life entities depicted.

Content for this question contributed by Michael S. Bailey, resident of Augusta, Richmond County, Georgia, USA