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Abstract art.

Art which does not mutate or directly represent external reality: some writers restrict the term to non-figurative art, while others use it of art which is not representational though ultimately derived from reality. Various alternatives have been suggested (non-representational art, non objective art, concrete art) but none has been generally accepted. 'Abstract' is frequently used as a relative term, paintings being more or less abstract in treatment. The original source of an abstract painting, e.g. a landscape or still-life, may be visible or decipherable: most Cubist painting is of this sort. Simplified or geometric shapes which have no direct reference to external reality may be used exclusively, as in
Mondrian's art. In a 3rd type of abstraction, brush-strokes, the colour and textures of the material used suggest the development of the painting, as in Pollock's work.

The idea that forms and colour in themselves can move the spectator underlies all A. a. Much 2Oth-c. painting and sculpture has attempted to have, like music, no representational purpose. Sources and parallels for this art have been found in ceramic decorations, decorative patterns in manuscripts and the applied arts (especially Celtic art, e.g. The Book of Kells), Mohammedan art, primitive and tribal sculpture and non-realistic elements in European painting (e.g. simplified architectural backgrounds in paintings by
Fra Angelico).

20th-c. A. a. springs from
Cezanne who treated some landscape motifs as geometric solids, and whose painting was much admired by the Cubists. Cubism, the 1 st abstract style, had a decisive effect on other artists and groups. The independent value of colour was not emphasized by Cubism, but by other groups. Flat pattern design in pictures, used by Gauguin and the Pont-Aven painters, was taken up by the Nabis; the Fauves were particularly-interested in colour. The 1st non-figurative painting was made by Kandinsky in 1910, but before this there were several painters in some of whose work the subject had become virtually indistinguishable, for example Holzel and Moreau Gustaves.

The emotional impact of colour was also of the first importance for German
Expressionism. Cubism was followed and rivalled by Futurism in Italy, Vorticism in Britain, De Stijl in the Netherlands and various forms of abstraction in Russia, including the Rayonism of Goncharova Natalia and Mikhail Larionov, Constructivism, and the rigid geometric A. a. of Kasimir Malevich (Suprematism). Abstraction of various sorts became more common in the paintings and sculptures of the 1920s, having for the most part a geometric basis: exceptionally Arp Jean had made some chance compositions (e.g. with torn paper), and in Surrealism there was some experiment with more informal types of abstraction. The main trend of A. a. in the 1930s was geometric, and the Abstraction-Creation group was formed in 1932 to exhibit such art. This abstract salon was succeeded after the war by Salon des Rcalitcs Nouvelles. In abstract painting since the war informal compositions and innovations in technique have been more frequent and the main movement is Abstract Expressionism. Sculpture during the 20th c. has been frequently abstract, particularly in the work of several major figures such as Arp, Brancusi and Calder.

 


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