A beginners guide to some of our most important Art movements

Ever been at a gallery or art exhibition and out of the blue you hear phrases like “His Abstract paintings are just wonderful” or ‘I’m really feeling this post expressionism painting” and wonder what?! Well, have no fear because I am here to help with all the tricky terminology or phrases bound to intimidate any beginner.

Our Top 10 Art Movements to get you started.

  • Abstract – Now we have all heard this term and wondered what does it mean right? It seems to fly around quite a lot but its actual definition is generally used to describe art that is not representational or based on external reality or nature. Inlay man’s terms it can be anything that is not real. Famous artists who pushed this movement range from Pablo Picasso, Jacob Lawrence, and Edward Clarke to modern-day artists such as Catherine Pickop, Roxanne Fawcett, and Blessing Ngobeni.
  • Action painting – Coined in the early 1950s to describe the work of artists who painted using bold gestures that engaged more of the body than traditional paintings at the time. Often we can see broad brushstrokes, drips, splashes, or other evidence of the physical action that took place upon the canvas. So think of capturing a moment where the movement is the focal point and interpreting it on a canvas
  • Art Nouveau – This an important phrase I am sure you have heard of before. It is an old school form of art and architecture popularized in French in the 1800s (like most art movements) and quickly became the standard across the world. It was often inspired by natural forms such as the sinuous curves of plants and flowers. Art Nouveau has a sense of dynamism and movement, often given by asymmetry and the use of modern materials, particularly iron, glass, ceramics, and later concrete, to create unusual forms and larger open spaces. Famous Artists such as Aubrey Beardsley, Antoni Gaudí (famous for La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona) and Victor Horta
  • Conceptual Art Now this is a tricky one to explain but in principle its best described as art in which the concept(s) or idea(s) involved in the work take precedence the completed work and is sometimes referred to as installations. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the finished product is the afterthought. I know that’s a lot but it an important concept to master to appreciate its greatest works.
  • Earthwork – This is the oldest art movement. Earthworks art is created using the earth itself from natural materials such as trees, branches, stones, etc. Earthworks range from subtle interventions in the landscape to significant, sculptural alterations made with heavy earth-moving machinery.
  • Feminist art – This is a category of art used to promote women’s rights and social issues. Made popular in the 1960s during the rise of the feminist movement, feminist art highlights the societal and political differences women experience within their lives.
  • Impressionism – By far one of the most recognizable art styles, it is a 19th-century art movement characterized by relatively small, thin, yet visible brush strokes, open composition, and emphasis on accurate depiction of light in its changing qualities. Impressionism originated with a group of Paris-based artists whose independent exhibitions brought them to prominence during the 1870s and 1880s. Famous artists such as Mary Cassatt, Monet, and Edger Degashave changed the landscape for many emerging artists to explore and play with new techniques unheard of at that time.
  • Minimalism – Another one of the art movements from the 1960s, it aims to show the essence of a subject. Usually seen as the bare or cold sibling to abstract art it has managed to find its space in modern art.
  • Surrealism – By far one of my favorite, Surrealism is best known for its visual artworks and writings and the juxtaposition of uncommon imagery. Famous artists include Frida Kahlo, Salvador Dali, and Dora Maar
  • Contemporary – Pretty much what art there is today. Produced in the second half of the 20th century or the 21st century. Contemporary artists work in a globally influenced, culturally diverse, and technologically advancing world. Contemporary art is part of a cultural dialogue that concerns personal and cultural identity, family, community, and nationality.

These are just some of the countless art movements and styles we have in the art space today. With the world ever-changing and artists finding new ways to express themselves we are bound to find exciting movements to join.

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