Is Abstract Art Modern Art?

Artistic Lines
from Joan Justis
February 2017

Composition VII 1913 Wassily KandinskyAbstract art is a popular interior design accent in our contemporary homes. We think of it as a modern style of art, but in reality it is an ancient form of artistic expression.

Composition VII 1913 Wassily Kandinsky

Reliquary guardian figure-Mbulu Ngula
Nineteenth century Guardian figures of Gabon, Africa sculpted by the Kota are abstractions of the human figure.  They are stylized symbolic beings created to guard their dead. >

Tialoc vessel from Great Temple Tenochtitian in Mexico And collections of pre-Columbian sculptures show an abstracted human form made into versatile vessels.

Pre-columbian vessel






Twentieth century European artists turned to abstract compositions because they wanted to find pure expression. They wanted to be free of the details of reality and to reduce their art to simply lines, shapes, colors, textures.  Some even eliminated subject matter and created non-representative art.   For example:
Paul Klee (1879-1940) especially enjoyed working with color.  “Color has taken possession of me….Color and I are one.” Partsch, Susanna (2007). Klee (reissue) (in German). Cologne: Benedikt Taschen. ISBN 978-3-8228-6361-9. Coming to Bloom 1934

Coming to Bloom 1934 Paul Klee




Constellation: Awakening at Dawn Joan Miro (1893-1983) used shape, line and color. Miro is quoted as saying that he would get his ideas at night, even seeing shapes on his ceiling. Janis Mink, Miró (Los Angeles: Taschen, 2003), p. 43

Constellation: Awakening at Dawn, Joan Miro



Much of today’s modern art is abstract expressionism. The artist uses spontaneous techniques to portray a creative emotional image. This style developed in New York after WWII during the 1940’s and 50’s. The Denver Art Museum website points out that this is the first American-grown modern art movement. Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) is the perfect example.

Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011)

You should try it.  I did.  Sunny GardenYou can use different media on the same picture.  Pick your colors first.  Then decide where you want the darks and the lights. Remember you can add layers as they dry. Think and follow a directional pattern and splash away.
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Sunny Garden 2017 Joan Justis

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