10 Famous Abstract Paintings Every Art Lover Should Know

After centuries of tradition, abstract artists sought to make paintings that did not follow conventional “rules” like naturalism and perspective. This radical style gave rise to powerfully lyrical paintings that emphasized color, composition, and emotion.

The Dutch painter Piet Mondrian, for example, created Composition with red, blue and yellow, which eloquently sums up his aesthetic philosophy using straight lines and primary colors. Likewise, Kazimir Malevich black square is an oft-quoted abstract piece due to the purity of its simplicity. Other pioneers like Hilma af Klint and Wassily Kandinsky created canvases that also left their mark by proving that there are endless ways to capture human experiences in the abstract.

Here we will explore 10 Famous Abstract Paintings and find out what made them so important.

Broaden your knowledge of art history by learning about these 10 famous abstract paintings.

Hilma de Klint, No. 7, adulthood, 1907

No. 7 Painting of Adulthood by Hilma Af Klint

Hilma af Klint, “No.7, Adulthood”, 1907 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Although not as well known as many male artists of her time, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was a pioneering abstract artist whose radical paintings predate many of her male contemporaries. She requested that her vast body of work – most of which was never exhibited during her lifetime – remain unseen for up to 20 years after her death. No. 7, adulthood part of Af Klint The ten greatest series. The collection represents the stages of life, including childhood, youth, maturity and old age. They combine botanical elements and recognizable organic objects that refer to birth and growth. This huge canvas, measuring 3 meters high and 2 meters wide, was painted on paper, on the floor of the studio, then glued on a canvas.

Af Klint interprets adulthood in full bloom by painting various flowing shapes of different sizes and colors on a lilac background. The central yellow symbol resembles a flower, while the spirals and biomorphic shapes are symbols of growth and fertility.

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition VII, 1913

Composition VII Painting by Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition VII”, 1913 (Photo: Tretyakov Gallery Going through Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Russian art theorist and painter Wassily Kandinsky used color and abstract shapes to communicate different human experiences. Many of his pieces are inspired by music and he believed sounds could be found in his brushstrokes.

Composition VII was made when the artist was living in Munich, Germany. Although the composition may seem chaotic at first glance, Kandinsky spent months designing it, creating more than 30 oil and watercolor sketches before completing the final piece. The theme of this painting is battle and redemption. Some of the symbols including boars, mountains and figures can be spotted in the maze of colors and symbols.

Kazimir Malevich, black square, 1915

Malevich's black square painting

Kazimir Malevich, “Black Square”, 1915 (Photo: Tretyakov Gallery Going through Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Russian artist Kazimir Malevich honed his painting skills in many styles, but ultimately became known for his Suprematist abstract art, which relied on geometric shapes. black square is his most iconic painting, which he reproduced four times with slightly different variations.

The 1915 version is the first of these works and is considered by art historians and critics to be a seminal work of modern art, and often referred to as “painting’s ground zero”. Malevich himself said of the work: “[Black Square is meant to evoke] the experience of pure-objectivity in the empty white of a liberated nothing.

Paul Klee, The Twitter Machine, 1922

Twittering Machine Painting by Paul Klee

Kurt Schwitters, “Das Undbild”, 1919 (Photo: MoMA Going through Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Swiss-born German artist Paul Klee had much in common with his contemporary Wassily Kandinsky. Both artists were members of the German Expressionist group Der Blaue Reiter, and both were deeply influenced by the connection between music and painting. The Twitter Machine is Klee’s most famous sound representation. It depicts a flock of birds on a wire with a crank mechanism. Klee made this illustration in a mixed technique with watercolour, ink and oil.

Piet Mondrian, Composition with red, blue and yellow, 1930

Composition with red, blue and yellow by Piet Mondrian

Piet Mondrian, “Composition with red, blue and yellow”, 1930 (Photo: Kunsthaus Zurich via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain)

After painting in a realistic style for years, Dutch artist Piet Mondrian joined the abstract art movement and quickly became a revolutionary figure. He formed his own philosophy on an abstraction called neoplasticism (also called From Stijl), describing it as follows: “This new plastic idea will ignore the peculiarities of appearance…on the contrary, it should find expression in the abstraction of form and color, that is, in the line straight and well defined. primary color.” Composition with red, blue and yellow is a well-known example of these ideas.

Wassily Kandinsky, Composition X, 1939

Composition X Painting by Wassily Kandinsky

Wassily Kandinsky, “Composition X”, 1939 (Photo: Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen Going through Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The last in his series of Compositions, Composition X is the pinnacle of Kandinsky’s exploration of expression through unrepresentative form. The organic forms were influenced by the biomorphic figures of surrealism while the colors express the inner emotions Kandinsky felt towards the end of his life. The black background represents the cosmos and the end of life while letting the colored parts stand out. The painting illustrates the circle of life and the emotional ups and downs that everyone experiences in the world.

Paul Clee, death and fire, 1940

Death and Fire Painting by Paul Klee

Paul Klee, “Death and Fire”, 1940 (Photo: Paul Klee Center Going through Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Klee painted death and fire in 1940, just months before his death in June of that year. He suffered from a condition known as scleroderma, which caused him painful joints and rashes on his hands. This explains why his work during this period became increasingly simplistic, and death and fire is a key example.

Klee was influenced by primitive art in the past, but this painting is particularly simplistic and critics have even equated it with the style of cave paintings. Illustration of mortality, the oil on jute piece features a central design in the shape of a human skull with the word ‘tod’ (the German word for ‘death’). “Tod” is found in the “T” shape of the character’s raised arm, the golden orb (O) in his hand, and the D-shape of his face.

Mark Rothko, Yellow, pink and lavender on pink, 1950

#03 Mark Rothko - White center (yellow, pink and lavender on pink), 1950, $72,840,000 (20070515, N08317, Lot 31)

The name of Mark Rothko immediately evokes canvases of large flat areas of color. The Russian-American abstract artist specializing in color field painting, which describes art that uses large flat areas of color. Rothko experimented with a range of color combinations to communicate different human experiences and emotions. Yellow, pink, lavender on pink is one of his earliest pieces from the 1950s. The warm juxtaposition of colors evokes a sense of joy.

Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis, 1951

Vir Heroicus Sublimis

Another pioneer of color fields, the American artist Barnett Newman, believed: “A painter is a choreographer of space. He invented what he called the “zip”, which is a vertical band of color that distinguishes his work from his fellow Abstract Expressionists.

His painting Vir heroicus sublimis (“Man, Heroic and Sublime”), measures an epic 95 by 213 inches and was his largest painting at the time. It features large fields of bright red that are interrupted by occasional “zipline” vertical lines. With his overwhelming scale, Newman attempted to evoke a strong reaction from the viewer and completely envelop them – and their personal space – in the vibrant hue.

Helene Frankenthaler, Mountains and sea, 1952

Frankenthaler, Mountains and Sea

American artist Helen Frankenthaler has developed her own revolutionary technique for filling canvases with large fields of color. She invented the “dip-stain” process, which involved pouring paint thinned with turpentine onto the canvas. This technique produced vibrant, hazy compositions that gave an entirely new look and feel to the texture of the canvas. Mountains and Sea (1952) was the first artwork in which Frankenthaler used this process, and when fellow color field artists Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland saw the work, they quickly adopted the method as well.

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