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What is Abstract Art?

Step outside of the natural world and into abstract art.

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Kandinsky's

Wassily Kandinsky (Russian, 1866-1944). Picture with a Circle (Bild mit Kreis), 1911. Oil on canvas. 54 11/16 x 43 11/16 in. (139 x 111 cm). Georgian National Museum, Tbilisi.

© 2009 Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

Definition:

(noun) - Abstract art can be a painting or sculpture (including assemblage) that does not depict a person, place or thing in the natural world -- even in an extremely distorted or exaggerated way. Therefore, the subject of the work is based on what you see: color, shapes, brushstrokes, size, scale and, in some cases, the process (see action painting). Abstract art began in 1911 with such works as Picture with a Circle (1911) by the Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944).

Kandinsky believed that colors provoke emotions. Red was lively and confident; Green was peaceful with inner strength; Blue was deep and supernatural; Yellow could be warm, exciting, disturbing or totally bonkers; and White seemed silent but full of possibilities. He also assigned instrument tones to go with each color: Red sounded like a trumpet; Green sounded like a middle-position violin; Light Blue sounded like flute; Dark Blue sounded like a cello, Yellow sounded like a fanfare of trumpets; and White sounded like the pause in a harmonious melody.

These analogies to sounds came from Kandinsky's appreciation for music, especially that by the contemporary Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). Kandinsky's titles often refer to the colors in the composition or to music, for example "improvisation."

The French artist Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) belonged to Kandinsky's Blue Rider (Die Blaue Reiter) group, and with his wife, Russian-born Sonia Delaunay-Turk (1885-1979), they both gravitated toward abstraction in their own movement Orphism or Orphic Cubism.

Synonyms:

Nonobjective Art

Pronunciation:

ab·strackt art

Source:

Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (Über das Geistige in der Kunst), 1911.

 

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