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Fine Arts

Abstract art is a term for directions in modern art that in the image making completely renounce or greatly reduce the figurative functions.

The term

The term abstract art is today debated. A number of artists claim that their art is rather the result of a concrete work. The work of art is not to depict a reality, but to be an object in itself, and its design is guided by constructivist forms or color schemes. The term is also somewhat obscure in terms of terminology because almost every country has its own name for the same phenomenon. Around World War I, abstract art was called “absolute art.” Today, for example, “non-objectivism” is used in the United States. In France, “art non-figuratif” is used, in Sweden “abstract art” or ” concrete art “. In Norway, both the term “abstract art” and ” non-figurative art ” are used.


The first quest for abstraction came during the Art Nouveau period with its long-running play of abstract ornament shapes. Cubism had in its first stages dissolved the ordinary object-making into a facet-like and abstract design language. Towards 1910, abstract art emerged as a further consequence of Pablo Picasso’s and Georges Braque’s experiments. At the same time, the Russian Vasilij Kandinskij came up with his figurative and musical pictorial compositions, the first pure abstract art, dated 1910, the same year that he designed the theoretical basis for abstract art in the book Über das Geiste in der Kunst, published in 1912.

Among the pioneers of the direction are also the German animal painter Franz Marc and the Swiss Paul Klee. Both Klee and Kandinsky worked on the painting on a musical level. At about the same time, the futurists worked on the problems of abstraction through the resolution of the movement, and in 1911–1912 the Munich group Der Blaue Reiter was formed with Kandinsky as the central personality. In 1912, Paris Cubists Robert Delaunay and František Kupka then created the first French abstract art, the so-called orphism.

Two main directions

On the one hand, there was a predominantly spontaneous, expressive and fabulous tendency, which Kandinsky represented at the beginning. It later developed in many directions and gave birth to new, more or less related tendencies: abstract expressionism, abstraction lyrique, tachism, art informal and action painting. Characteristic of this more expressive direction’s representatives, such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Asger Jorn, is that they often express themselves emotionally and intuitively. The sculptors Constantin Brancusi, Hans Arp and Henry Moorecultivated a more organic imprint; their sculptures show close association with organic structures in nature.

Alongside this mainstream, a number of “constructive” directions evolved: constructivism, neoplasticism, supremacy, concrete art, op art, minimal art and neo-geometric art. The practitioners of these directions hold on to a well-reflected, rational order and reject all nature-inspired abstraction in favor of strictly geometric shape elements. From 1913 the direction is developed through the suprematism of the Russian Kasimir Malevich, which is based on the juxtaposition of circles, squares and the like in movement-filled compositions. This direction in turn inspired the Russian group of non-objectivists, also called the constructivists, founded in 1917, consisting of among othersEl Lisitsky, Vladimir Tatlin, Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner. The plan geometric direction was refined by the Dutch Piet Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg and led to neoplasticism around 1920. These more or less purely constructivist and geometric abstract directions are closely related to modern architecture and in 1931 were brought together in the French Abstraction-Creation group with artists such as Auguste Herbin, Hans Arp and Albert Gleizes.

In contrast to the geometric directions, Amédée Ozenfant and Le Corbusier created purism in 1920, establishing a relationship with the external objects, but in a typified and abstract form. Before the sculpture, the Russian Alexander Archipenko had before 1920 worked towards an abstract art in his so-called “negative sculpture”, where the empty space in the sculpture itself acts as a plastic element, while the Romanian Constantin Brancusi created highly schematized bird sculptures. SurrealismThen, in the late 1920s, the abstract art brought new impetus by, among other things, a strong, imaginative deformation of natural forms and objects introduced as picture elements. Among the most famous artists who professed abstract art in the 1930s are Pablo Picasso, Vasily Kandinsky, Hans Arp, Joan Miró, Constantin Brancusi, Alberto Giacometti and Henri Laurens.

The development continued in the 1940s under the inspiration of Paul Klee, Vasilij Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian, and in 1945 led to the association Réalités Nouvelles – a continuation and expansion of the Abstraction-Creation. Key artists here were Auguste Herbin, Alberto Magnelli, Jean Dewasne and Victor Vasarely. As the first phase was carried by Russians, the flourishing is not least characterized by French artists, with Paris as the center. In the United States, there was also a rich development in the 1940s and 1950s with the New York school and abstract expressionism, with New York making Paris the rank unmatched as the center of abstract art.

In the wake of neo-geography in the 1980s, we have seen a renewed interest in abstract painting. Much of what has been made has had a polemic streak against earlier abstract art.

Scandinavian artists have also made their mark in the abstract. From the 1920s and 1930s the Swedes Otto G. Carlsund and Gösta Adrian-Nilsson, the Danish Francesca Clausen, the Finn Birger Carlstedt, the Icelandic Finnur Jónsson and Thorvald Hellesen, Ragnhild Keyser, Ragnhild Kaarbø and Charlotte Wankel from Norway can be mentioned. In the 1940s and 1950s, significant artists such as Richard Mortensen and Robert Jacobsen from Denmark, Lars-Gunnar Nordström and Sam Vanni from Finland, Svavar Guðnason and Gerður Helgadottir from Iceland, Olle Bertling and Olle Bonniérfrom Sweden as well as Jakob Weidemann, Gunnar S. Gundersen, Odd Tandberg, Ramon Isern, Lars Tiller, Aase Texmon Rygh and Arnold Haukeland from Norway. From the late 1970s there was a renewed interest in abstract art. A number of international exhibitions shed new light on the phenomenon of abstract art, and a number of forgotten artists were highlighted. The exhibition “Concrete in the Nordic countries 1907-1960” was shown in the Nordic countries in 1987-1888.

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Top Fine Arts Schools

  • Alabama (1)
  • Alaska (1)
  • Arizona (2)
  • Arkansas (1)
  • California (26)
  • Colorado (3)
  • Connecticut (4)
  • Delaware (1)
  • Florida (8)
  • Georgia (4)
  • Hawaii (1)
  • Idaho (3)
  • Illinois (11)
  • Indiana (5)
  • Iowa (2)
  • Kansas (4)
  • Kentucky (1)
  • Louisiana (4)
  • Maine (2)
  • Maryland (4)
  • Massachusetts (6)
  • Michigan (8)
  • Minnesota (3)
  • Mississippi (3)
  • Missouri (3)
  • Montana (2)
  • Nebraska (1)
  • Nevada (2)
  • New Hampshire (1)
  • New Jersey (4)
  • New Mexico (2)
  • New York (26)
  • North Carolina (3)
  • North Dakota (1)
  • Ohio (7)
  • Oklahoma (3)
  • Oregon (2)
  • Pennsylvania (9)
  • Rhode Island (1)
  • South Carolina (3)
  • South Dakota (1)
  • Tennessee (4)
  • Texas (15)
  • Utah (3)
  • Vermont (3)
  • Virginia (6)
  • Washington (3)
  • Washington DC (3)
  • West Virginia (1)
  • Wisconsin (2)
  • Wyoming (0)

Top 10 Fine Arts in the United States

Rank College Name Location
1 Yale University New Haven, CT
2 Rhode Island School of Design Providence, RI
3 School of the Art Institute of Chicago Chicago, IL
4 University of California–Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA
5 Virginia Commonwealth University Richmond, VA
6 California Institute of the Arts Valencia, CA
7 Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA
8 Cranbrook Academy of Art Bloomfield Hills, MI
9 Maryland Institute College of Art Baltimore, MD
10 Columbia University New York, NY

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