Abstractionism is a representation having no reference to concrete objects or specific examples

Abstract Expressionism

Emerging in the 1940s in New York and flourishing in the 1950s, Abstract Expressionism was considered by many to be the golden age of American art.

The movement was marked by its use of brushstrokes and texture, the welcoming of chance and the often enormous canvases, all used to transmit strong emotions through the glorification of the very act of painting.

Abstractionism – Period

The abstract art is the exclusion of all kinds of shapes – structures that are supposed to define objects, perspectives and scales.

Painters and other artists of this period rejected the names of specific forms, approved for years. They replaced lines with the location and vertical with the level.

Abstractionism was born as a result of some fields already known in art: cubism, futurism, expressionism and very similar trends. The greatest representatives of abstraction began as the creators of these three directions.

Abstractionism painting was born in Russia at the beginning of the 20th century. Precursor to abstraction in painting was Wassily Kandinsky.

Abstractionism – Plastic Arts

The  abstractionism  was a movement of art that emerged in the early twentieth century in Germany, breaking with the tradition of the Renaissance schools and abandoning the representation of reality. They didn’t care about figures or themes, but they praised colors and shapes.

Abstractionism is identified with two lines of creation:  informal abstraction and geometric abstraction.

Informal abstraction: It follows the creation of freer forms and expresses feelings, emotions. The artist creates shapes when painting freely, and the lines and colors express his emotions. Hence stains and graphics can be seen in these works of art. The pioneer in this artistic expression was the Russian Vassili Kandínski (1866-1944).

We should mention that informal abstraction has generated other artistic trends such as:  abstract expressionism, in the USA, and gestural abstraction, in Europe and Latin America.

Geometric abstraction: Follow a harder technique, with no expression of feelings or ideas. The artist simply explores geometric shapes, abandoning the transmission of thoughts and feelings. In geometric abstraction, the merits of pioneering must be divided between the Russian Malevitch (1878-1935) and the Dutch Piet Mondrian (1872-1944).

It is important to note that the work of the Russian Malevitch generated a movement derived from abstraction, called suprematism (autonomy of form). The highlight is the Black Square screen on a white background.

As for the Dutch artist Mondrian, he dedicated himself to canvases only with horizontal and vertical lines, right angles and the colors yellow, blue and red, in addition to black and white. Mondrian’s work directly influenced the functional art developed by Bauhaus. Constructivism, concretism and, more recently, minimalism were derived from geometric abstraction.


Abstract sculptors use nature not as a theme, but as a source of ideas. Nature serves as a starting point for your creativity; the end result most of the time bears no resemblance to the original. What matters for your work are the shapes and colors, the volume and the texture work.

Abstract artists use mathematical concepts in their sculptures, such as Helaman Ferguson, who discovered a common point between mathematics and art.

Abstractionism – Movement

 Abstractionist movement  started to predominate in the contemporary era from the moment the artist no longer refers to concrete objects, such as portraits, seascapes, flowers, historical, literary or mythological relations.

This happened mainly because with the invention of the camera the art turned to the expression of the interior. The artists were no longer concerned with the representation of the subject, since the value is in the relationship of shapes and colors.

The  abstract art  works with light and shadow, rhythm, color, harmony, balance, line, dot and geometric shapes. Art scholars commonly consider the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) to be the initiator of  abstract painting .

Abstractionism, becoming a more diversified movement, was based on two trends:

Informal abstractionism

Predominance of feelings and emotions.
Shapes and colors are created more freely suggesting associations with the elements of nature

Geometric abstractionism:  shapes and colors are composed in such a way that they are only the expression of a geometric conception.

Geometric Abstractionism

In the two fundamental trends, abstractionism has sub-trends. In the informal, the most important are tachism and graphics; in geometric, neoplasticism or concretism.

In the painting, the following stand out:  Francis Picabia, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, Malevick and Marcel Duchamp. In Brazil,  abstractionism was  installed around 1947 with the painters Antonio Bandeira and Milton Dacosta.

Informal Abstractionism

Shapes and colors are created impulsively, in the free course of emotion, with absolute predominance of feeling. In contact with reality or nature, the informal abstract painter expresses an emotion instead of representing an image created or composed intellectually.

Many abstracts, in fact,  paint abstractly in  front of nature. They just avoid imitating, copying, describing aspects of nature. On the contrary, they seek to suggest, evoke, allude, establishing general or particular impressions of rhythms of nature.

For some authors,   informal abstractionism would be a revolt of the spirit against the mechanical precision of modern life, against the cult of rationalism and the accuracy of industrial civilization. It would be a kind of modern romanticism.

Some pure abstracts understand that, although not starting or not being inspired by nature, the artist can find it, when expressing and communicating rhythms of vitality. In defense of informal abstractionism, it is also claimed that the figurative picture reproduces the outside world; the abstract picture, the artist’s inner world – the lines and colors acquire poetic virtues, truly musical, because they do not represent the material qualities of physical reality, but the realities of the artist’s psychic world.

When it takes on luminous features, obtained through delicate and fairy tones,   informal abstractionism is called “lyrical abstractionism”; when, however, the feeling is exasperated and dramatized, through charged, intense and violent tones, it is called “expressionist abstractionism”.

The best examples of   informal abstractionism are found largely in the works of Kandinsky himself, who later would have a geometric phase.

The abstractionist movement came to predominate in the contemporary era from the moment when the artist no longer refers to concrete objects, such as portraits, seascapes, flowers, historical, literary or mythological relations.

This happened mainly because with the invention of the camera the art turned to the expression of the interior. The artists were no longer concerned with the representation of the subject, since the value is in the relationship of shapes and colors.

The  abstract art  works with light and shadow, rhythm, color, harmony, balance, line, dot and geometric shapes. Art scholars commonly consider the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) to be the initiator of abstract painting.

Abstractionism – History

Unlike the history of geometric abstraction, that of informal or lyrical abstraction in Brazil is much simpler and was not founded on organized groups or theoretical clashes.

The greatest influence on its development was the Bienal de São Paulo, which, since its creation in 1951, and especially throughout the 1960s, has shown the works of Tachist, informal and gesture painters whose careers were reaching their peak internationally. But even before the Bienal, there were, strictly speaking, two pioneers, Cícero Dias and Antônio Bandeira, who at the end of the 40s lived in Europe and came to Brazil.

Within the label of informal abstraction, there is also abstract expressionism, which designates a more vigorous, gestural and dramatic art, the peak of which is the action painting of the American artist Jackson Pollock (1912-1956).

In Brazil, such an extreme has never been reached. The most gestural and dramatic of our abstractionists was the painter Iberê Camargo. Moreover, the gesture – especially an elegant gesture, with a clear calligraphic character – appears in the painting of the artists called Japanese-Brazilians, because they were born in Japan, emigrated to Brazil, but brought from the homeland a tradition of  abstract art , which here developed.

The first Japanese-Brazilian to impose himself, in the late 1950s, was Manabu Mabe (1924-1997), a former farmer who had emigrated at the age of ten.

Mabe’s painting is grandiloquent and ornamental, and he is the best known of Japanese-Brazilians abroad. In addition to Mabe, Tikashi Fukushima (1920), Kazuo Wakabaiashy (1931), Tomie Ohtake (1913) and Flávio Shiró (1928) stood out.

The last two are special cases. Tomie was never exactly an informal painter, although she did not use geometric shapes at first; adopted them, however, from the 1970s onwards. Flávio Shiró made a very original and highly dramatic synthesis between gestural abstraction and figuration, and there are phases in which one or the other predominates.

Other informal abstract painters of importance and quality that should be mentioned:  Henrique Boese (1897-1982), born in Germany; Yolanda Mohályi (1909-1978), born in Hungary; Mira Schendel (1918-1989), born in Switzerland; Wega Nery (1912); Loio Pérsio (1927); Maria Leontina (1917-1984) and Ana Bella Geiger (1933), all born in Brazil.

Very important, within the   lyrical abstractionism in Brazil, it was also the role of printmaking, which became more than a technique of image multiplication and achieved the status of language. Masters of   lyrical abstract engraving became Fayga Ostrower (1920), Artur Luís Piza (1928), Rossini Perez (1932), Anna Bella Geiger (1933) – before moving on to painting – and Maria Bonomi (1935).

Several of the aforementioned artists are still active. On the other hand, very young artists today make a painting that oscillates between a figuration only suggested, and the informal abstraction, due to the vigor and quantity of the pictorial material, the striking presence of the gesture and the expressive impetus.

Abstractionism – Abstraction

In general, abstraction is understood as   any mental attitude that departs or dispenses with the objective world and its multiple aspects. It refers, by extension, with regard to the work of art and the creation process, its motivations and origins, to any form of expression that departs from the figurative image.

Max Perlingeiro, in “Abstraction as language: profile of a collection” Editora Pinakotheke. SP

In the context of modern art, the success of the so-called abstract art was so great that the conceptualization of it started to be made many times in a hurry, without due attention to the legitimate meaning of “abstraction”. This concept refers to the operation of abstracting, which means, in principle, to remove, separate or eliminate certain characteristics or elements of an originally integrated whole. Through the abstract operation it is possible to make the selection of certain similar aspects – so that the attention can better focus on them.

Figurative work: Name: Woman with water jug ​​Author: Johannes Vermeer Date: 1660
Collection Marquand Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art – NY

Using a somewhat simplistic symbolism, but with a clear effect and for didactic purposes, we can compare the figurative work with a song with verses. Upon hearing the singer’s interpretation, we easily understand what the composer wants to tell us. The abstract work, in turn, can be compared to a melody without verses. And it is up to the listener to let himself be carried away by the music and feel, almost without any explicit indication, the composer’s proposal.

However, to understand abstract art in its complexity, it is recommended to expand the repertoire of knowledge about Art, visiting exhibitions, reading, seeing and, mainly, visiting History.

Painting within artistic practice, until the mid-18th century, followed strict rules in the solutions and concerns of artists with the figure.

So much so that the academies taught that there were four themes to be developed in painting:  still life, portrait, landscape and marine, and a theme called allegory, or allegorical painting.

In still life, objects or figures are presented in an internal environment far from nature. Living beings are represented, but they are known to be inanimate (hence the term still life, translated from French, which received the name of still life in English). Flowers and fruits, even if fresh and lush, appear on the canvas resting on surfaces or carefully placed in jars or vases of different materials.

Figurative work: Name Flowers and sweets Author: Pedro Alexandrino Date: 1900 Collection: Pinacoteca do Estado de SP

Hunting and fishing animals waiting for the cook. Breads, knives and baskets appear on a calculatedly stripped plan.

The portrait, almost always, placed the character in studied postures, with perfectly controlled lights and shadows and, depending on the greater or lesser skill and sensitivity of the artist, the subject’s personality could emerge in the model’s features and posture.

Landscapes are, perhaps, the most appreciated figurative works before the appearance of academic rules and after their decadence. The landscape places people in different places in their daily lives, and the nostalgia transmitted by being-not-being always delights.

The same can be said of the navies:  rivers or rough seas; placid sands of a quiet beach; sky blue or thick mists; the brightness and darkness of the deep waters.

Allegorical painting is linked to knowledge, to signs, and counts, through symbols, the passages, moments or policies linked more directly to the time and space where it develops. It provokes feelings and sensations, but requires erudition.

Abstract work Title Estaleiro Velrôme Author: Lucio Pegoraro Date: 1986 Author’s collection

Therefore, all these sensations are very clear in classical figurative works.

And the question that arises is:  How and why did artists abandon these aesthetic proposals, so appreciated, already introjected into the unconscious and accepted immediately at first glance?

Art is not static. The artist is a being linked to the past and the future, a creator, bringing with him the spirit of the scientist and the perspicacity of the researcher. His interests are in challenges, concerns and the endless plunge into the cosmos, the imponderable, the infinite. He is interested in ruptures and questions. And if not, he will not be an artist. Accommodation is not part of your being and, if you like it, you struggle for acceptance. He also struggles and likes his own individuality.

Paradoxes aside, this is what moves art and what elevates and transforms it.

Understanding the continuous engine of history and inserted irremediably in it, the artist is always driven to create. Hence, currents, aesthetics, poetics, aesthetic movements arise. Note that we are not talking about a sector of society that seeks the new for the new, the taste for novelty just to consume and discard it. On the contrary, the artist worthy of this classification – of such a widespread and worn-out name – does not make concessions to the wishes of the art consumer, does not produce what he does not believe in.

Because of this we have works that are important milestones in the history of art and many others that were created as badly finished copies and later discarded. The great moment of figurative painting occurred, certainly, between the 17th and 18th centuries. The perfection achieved by academics is such that it still enchants the eyes. But what about spirit? Emotions?

It is not by chance that concerns about feelings and sensations arise at the end of the 19th century.

The search for deeper knowledge about the human psyche; the freer behavior of socio-political impositions; the valorization of the interior, the core, of what is not visible, apparent and immediately recognized:  this is all reported by the new art forms that arise with modernism.

It is abstracted, the story brought by the figure is removed and the intellect and the emotion of seeking new relationships of space, time, color, form are stirred up.

Abstract work GA4 Author: Gerard Richter Date: 1984 Collection: Museum of Modern Art – New York

To say that the painting was modified due to the emergence of photography is simplistic.

Craft painters lost their clients not because of photography, but because they did not have much more to say in their portraits, studied, in repeated formulas.

The Impressionists left the studios, looked for natural light, created a new way of painting, broke with the academy and, in their relentless pursuits, changed the painting. They sought to place the figure, the landscape, the world in a new organization dictated by the impressions they caused. The impressionists valued the feelings of the protagonists, whether people, trees, windows or any other figure

Vicente Van Gogh, Paul Klee, Paul Gauguin, Arp, Munck, Picasso, Braque, Miro and many others.

When René Magritte, in 1927, literally tells us in his work “this is not a pipe” but the representation of a pipe, he raises the question of the mystification of the figurative, the representation of reality, the polysemy of the work of art, alongside other questions proposed by Kandinski, Chagall, among others.

The value of art influenced or dictated by academic practices is undeniable, but the rupture movement, called Modern, transformed this word into a synonym for something inappropriate and moldy. As modernism imposed itself totally and efficiently, for more than 100 years, in the contemporary moment – postmodern – academism is seen as the product of an era, of a certain moment and … period.

Abstract Art discards the known figure and replaces the visible world in the informality of shapes, colors, lines, textures, plans and volumes. The gesture translates the intention and its freedom also releases the inner transforming expression.

The controversies that the abstractionist currents provoked are already appeased and discolored.

The so-called arteabstrata no longer brings shocks or indignation, but only what it proposes:  reflection. Neusa Schilaro Scaléa


by Abdullah Sam
I’m a teacher, researcher and writer. I write about study subjects to improve the learning of college and university students. I write top Quality study notes Mostly, Tech, Games, Education, And Solutions/Tips and Tricks. I am a person who helps students to acquire knowledge, competence or virtue.

Leave a Comment