Art is constantly shifting – because it’s so subjective, what’s considered “art” changes throughout time and space. As such, you can often divide art history into certain movements, though doing so may be a bit reductive. This describes a common style or technique that emerged during a particular time period, and each has its own specific signature that makes it different from other movements. Here are the top five most famous art movements and their accompanying styles.
- Abstract Expressionism
This designation is applied to a huge variety of artists and art movements, though most are from the 20th century. Abstract expressionism is direct and dramatic, involving a dynamic relationship with the medium that evokes movement and spontaneity. Vigorous, sweeping brush strokes, dripping or splashing paint, and an intense use of bold contrasting colors is common in this movement.
- Art Nouveau
Art nouveau sprang up between 1890 and 1910 as a response to the brutalist forms of the Industrial Revolution. The style places a lot of emphasis on flowing, organic forms based on nature, and often features plants and animals. While it did appear in painting and sculpture, the movement was most prominent in architecture and graphic art.
Impressionism is an art movement that began in the 19th century and was made popular by French artists such as Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, and Sisley. Impressionism was based on painting subjects, particularly landscapes, in real time, using small, visible brushstrokes to give the impression of movement and changing light. As a result, Impressionist works are often realistic and recognizable, while still retaining a certain dreamlike quality.
This movement is a bit newer than others, having its roots in the 1960s. These works are “simple,” featuring geometric shapes devoid of symbolism. The movement was created to challenge traditional ideas regarding craftsmanship and play with illusions related to the spatial component of art.
Surrealism as a movement is unique in that it was established in a very specific time and place – it was created by a poet named André Breton in Paris in 1924. The movement affected mostly artistic and literary circles through WWII. The goal was to liberate thought and human experience from rationalism and boundaries by using poetic symbolism in new, unseen ways.