The origins of abstract art can rightly be attributed to the imagination of man. Abstract art is distinguishable from fantasy art, which makes imaginative characters and myths its subject. It is closer to reality as it reflects the real in figurative terms. In other words, abstract art depicts real forms in a simplified or rather reduced way, keeping the original subject the same.
Abstract art did not originate all of a sudden nor is it the outcome of the 20th century thinkers. In the Jewish and Islamic religion, depiction of human beings was banned. As such, they took recourse to all forms of decorative and non-figurative arts or calligraphy.
Wassily Kandinsky is regarded as the inventor of non-figurative art in the 20th century. Gradually, his paintings moved out of figurative subjects. In 1910, he created the first figurative work of art- a watercolor sans any reference to reality. Kandinsky not only became the first abstract artist, he also took pains to promote it as a theorist. After Kandinsky, it was the Russian painter, Kasimir Malewich, who took abstract art to the next level. Melewich’s paintings mostly focused on simple geometrical forms.
The landmark events in the mid-twentieth century changed the course of abstract art. The World War II, persecution of Jewish people by Hitler, and denunciation of modern art by the Nazis led to the immigration of hundreds of avant-garde European artists into the United States of America, especially New York. This created a new wave in the American art scenario prompting the birth of Abstract Expressionism.
Abstract expressionism is more a concept of performing art than a style. This movement stresses the trend of pushing the conventional boundaries beyond all limits. Some of the famous artists of this movement are Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
Currently, there are two primary segments of abstract art. One segment, known as Color Field Abstract Art, features unified blocks of color. Mark Rothko is one of the pioneers of this genre. The second segment includes multiple genres- Surrealism, Expressionism, Cubism, and Action painting. Regardless of all these influences, the core of abstract art paintings remains the capturing of the essence of the artist’s subconscious on canvas.