What are the most famous abstract paintings in history? In this post we answer that question and expand our collective knowledge about the fascinating abstract art.
A great deal of famous abstract art was created throughout the early 20th century, and most of this art is still mentioned today. When considering these examples of abstract art, certain works of art have managed to stand out and gain more and more popularity as time goes by.
While there are many more works of art that can be included when considering the most famous abstract paintings of all time, we have chosen the top ten best abstract paintings to talk about below.
These are the 10 most famous pieces of abstract art.
No. 1 Untitled, First Abstract Watercolor - Wassily Kandinsky
Considered the pioneer of abstract art, Russian artist Wassily Kandinsky was easily recognized as the most iconic member of the entire movement. Nicknamed the "father of abstract art", Kandinsky painted some of the earliest works within the genre, including what was said to be the first true artwork of the abstract art period. The artwork in question, which he painted in 1910, was Untitled (first abstract watercolor).
This painting was done with watercolor and India ink, with a light use of pencil underneath. It was one of Kandinsky's best-known watercolors.
In Untitled - First Abstract Watercolor we find a nice burst of color, as found in most of his paintings, but the use of watercolors instead of oils leaves a visibly different finish that makes this artwork interesting and quite unique. from its production in 1910. The close-up work appears to have been completed quickly, which is typical of this art form as the paint dries very quickly. He also works expressively, not worrying too much about precision, but focusing more on the choice of colors and filling the canvas with different shapes and lines. It was really abstract and this was something that came out more and more as he went on in his career, as he got more and more removed from reality in the forms he used.
Kandinsky specialized in oils but occasionally worked with watercolors. I would have found this medium easy to work with and something that was also well-suited to quick studio pieces, where I was looking to understand the design for a future piece. He also made use of lithographs, woodcuts, and etchings at other times, particularly in the early stages of his career when he was particularly experimental.
Working with watercolors, Kandinsky was able to complete this painting in just three days. Despite his haste, however, Kandinsky undertook several studies for this artwork before beginning the final composition. What added to the playability of Untitled was his choice of color, as Kandinsky artfully chose colors that he knew would faithfully represent his emotions at the time. The lines and shapes that were drawn also add to and emphasize the chaos and urgency experienced when viewing this painting.
Abstraction is also clearly demonstrated within this artwork through the loose and vague lines rendered, which aroused considerable interest among the artistic crowd at the time. Untitled exists as a major instigator of the abstract art movement, as it was the first time that anything remotely separate and unrestricted was accepted as a proper subject within artworks at the time. Untitled marked a defining point within European art as a move away from traditional works of art towards more abstract and uninhibited pieces of art.
The period between 1910 and 1914 was considered the peak of Kandinsky's career and the pinnacle of his greatest artistic achievement. Thus, Untitled existed as one of the first works of art to shamelessly discard all references to recognizable forms and emerge from the limitations posed by Western European painting conventions of representation.
This notion of total freedom came to figure prominently in most of the works created by Kandinsky during this period.
No. 2 Adulthood #7 - Hilma AF Klint
Although not as well known as many of the male artists of her time, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint was a pioneering abstract artist whose radical paintings predate many of her male contemporaries. He requested that his great work, most of which was never exhibited during his lifetime, be hidden until 20 years after his death.
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.
Hilma Klint's Adulthood No. 7 is a huge canvas, 3 meters high and 2 meters wide, it was painted on paper, on the studio floor, and then pasted onto a canvas.
Af Klint interprets adulthood in full bloom by painting various free-flowing shapes in 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.
No. 3 Senecio - Paul Klee
Completed in 1922, the Senecio painting is a manifestation of Paul's sense of humor and African culture. Simple colors and shapes, Paul makes use of various shades of orange, red and yellow to reveal the portrait of an old man. The artistic use of forms gives the false impression that an eye is raised. His left eyebrow is represented by a triangle while the other is made up of a simple curved line. The portrait is also called Head of a Man Going Senile and intentionally mimics children's artwork through the use of ambiguous shapes and forms with minimal facial detail.
This adaptation of the human face is divided by color into rectangles. Flat geometric squares are held within a circle that represents a masked face and shows the multicolored costume of a harlequin. A portrait of performance artist Senecio, it can be seen as symbolic of the changing relationship between art, illusion and the world of drama. This painting demonstrates the principles of Klee's art, in which the graphic elements of line, planes of color, and space are set in motion by an energy from the artist's mind. In his imaginative doodles, he liked, in his own words, to "take out a line for a walk."
No. 4 Etoile Bleue - Joan Miró
The painting Etoile Bleue was Miró's transition between figurative and abstract art.
This painting is known to be one of the most important paintings in Miro's career. In particular, the searing blue used can be seen in several of his future works and even came to influence painters such as Mark Rothko and Yves Klein.
Etoile Bleue is a great painting, but it is a painting of questions rather than answers.
Miró was the great synthesizer of an era of many diverse ideas, something like today, but the artistic ideas of that time were much more complex than those of today.
The painting combines fauvist colours, cubist forms and surrealist intentions in a work that the viewer can visually explore again and again. It is among so many things that you have many questions whose answers are as dreamlike as the painting.
If you look at the blue shape in the upper left corner. It is a bird. Most likely, it is, but which bird is not clear. Looking at it for a while, you can definitely tell that it is a dynamic shape, but it can easily be argued that it flies to the left or to the right or even down and towards us.
The big red piece in the bottom center. Is it a foot? It definitely looks as stable and grounded as the blue piece is dynamic.
This painting is a jewel for its lovers. At first glance, it wobbles a bit and moves, but wait, it moves against that springy figure in the bottom right.
Miró, a Catalan artist born in Barcelona in 1893, called his surrealist dreamscape Peinture (Étoile Bleue) of 1927 a key image, incorporating symbols he would use repeatedly in later years, and even the color searing blue influenced later painters, including Mark Rothko and Yves. Klein.
No. 5. Composition VII - Wassily Kandinsky
Wassily Kandinsky's Composition VII painting is considered by many fans of abstract art to be the most important work of art of the 20th century, perhaps even the most important abstract painting ever created.
This work is a logical continuation of Composition V and Composition VI . The three paintings are united by the theme of the Apocalypse. Such elements of Composition VI as the Deluge and the Resurrection can be traced in this work. Its main theme is the final judgment, but it is not seen as a disaster but as a liberation, the transition of the world from the material to the spiritual. Therefore, Composition VII differs from the other works in the series by its light colors and sparkling contrasting lines.
Kandinsky built each of his compositions so that the viewer could enter the image as if he were revolving within it. He made the bottom edge of the composition heavier, pushing it forward, while the top remains lighter and more distant to the viewer. One of the artist's main contrasts, blue and yellow form the central zone of active movement in and out.
Kandinsky spent many months preparing his Composition VII, but it took him only four days to paint it. The artist made about 30 studies of this painting. Some of them are reminiscent of Caravaggio or Leonardo da Vinci's with their detailed studies of the folds of the cloth, the leaves of the trees or the human limbs. In this series, some works repeatedly present the same curved line, others schematically show the basic structural elements of the composition, and some contain a detailed plan of the composition. In addition, there are about 15 different paintings that are related to Composition VII: these are sketches in oil or pencil, watercolours, paintings on glass and engravings.
Gabrielle Munter, who witnessed the creation of this painting, wrote in her diary on November 25, 1913 that the canvas for Composition VII was delivered to her home in Murnau, and Kandinsky went to work that very night. The next morning he took the first photograph of the painting and after lunch he took the second. The November 28 entry in Munter's diary stated that the painting was complete. On November 29, he took a photo of the finished work. Thus was recorded the birth of a great masterpiece.
Composition VII is ranked no. 100 in our list of famous paintings
No. 6 Composition X - Kandinsky
Cited as one of the early champions of abstract painting, Wassily Kandinsky was not only a Russian painter, but also an art theorist. The influence he instigated and left on the art world and abstraction was immense as he co-founded the Phalanx art group and The New Group of Artists thereafter, organizing exhibitions for his contemporaries throughout his years as an artist. He produced more than 600 works throughout his career, with a 1913 painting reaching its record auction price of $41.6 million in 2017.
Despite this impressive record, his most significant work was arguably Composition X. Latest in his lifelong series of 'Compositions'. With her he sought to complete his research on the purity of form and expression through this work. Having used the color black sparingly in his practice up to this point, it has been criticized that this work evokes both the cosmos and the darkness of the portent nearing the end of his life.
Initially, the creation of Composition X was influenced by the biomorphic forms of Surrealism.
However, Wassily Kandinsky later employed the art of using organic forms in his paintings. This is a style that he later used throughout his paintings.
The style gave his work uniqueness. It was easy and almost impossible not to recognize the paintings created by Wassily Kandinsky when they were displayed in exhibitions or elsewhere.
Also, Composition X was created in France. When looking at the painting up close, you can see that the painter used a black background. The main reason for using the black background was so that the foreground colors could be seen clearly.
No. 7 Convergence - Jackson Pollock
Convergence —a black-and-white painting onto which Pollock threw primary colors—reflects the crisis of the Cold War. It is one of his masterpieces, and might also be the best-known painting by an abstract expressionist. In 1964, Springbok Editions produced a puzzle of the painting, which was touted as the "world's hardest puzzle", and hundreds of thousands of Americans bought it.
In 1951 Pollock said: “It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atomic bomb, the radio, in the old ways of the Renaissance or any other past culture. Each era finds its own technique.” Pollock found his technique in house and drip painting, and used it to express his own time.
Measuring 237 x 394 centimeters, Convergence is one of Pollock's most ambitious paintings . He is known for his visual brilliance and for evoking deep emotions in the viewer. Although Jackson's works remain difficult to decipher even for art experts, his paintings are considered manifestations of free expression. Convergence, which is a leading example in that regard, remains one of his most celebrated masterpieces.
No. 8 Elegy to the Spanish Republic - Robert Motherwell
Although Robert Motherwell was only 21 when the Spanish Civil War broke out, he was greatly affected by its atrocities in the years that followed. This led him to create a series of over 200 paintings in response to it. The 'Elegy to the Spanish Republic' series serves as a multiplicity of commemorations of human suffering, as well as "abstract and poetic symbols for the inexorable cycle of life and death."
About the Elegies, Motherwell stated that, “After a period of painting them, I discovered black as one of my subjects, and with the black, the contrasting white, a sense of life and death that to me is quite Spanish. They are essentially the Spanish black of death contrasted with the glare of a Matisse-like sunlight.”
His Elegies constitute an extended abstract meditation on life and death. Throughout the series, the horizontal white canvases are rhythmically divided by two or three freely drawn vertical bars punctuated at various intervals by ovoid shapes. The paintings are usually composed entirely of black and white, the colors of mourning and radiance, death and life. Motherwell commented on the entanglement of those forces as a metaphor for his understanding of the experience of being alive.
Elegy to the Spanish Republic describes a majestic passage from the organic and the geometric, the accidental and the deliberate. Like other Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell was drawn to the Surrealist principle of automatism—of methods beyond the artist's conscious intent—and his brushwork is emotionally charged, but within an overall structure of a certain severity. In fact, Motherwell saw careful arrangements of color and form as the heart of abstract art, which, he said, "strips away other things to intensify it, its rhythms, spatial intervals, and color structure."
No. 9 Black Iris – Georgia O'Keeffe
This monumental painting of flowers is one of O'Keeffe's early masterpieces. By enlarging the petals well beyond life-size proportions, he forces the viewer to notice small details that might otherwise be overlooked. When this group's paintings were first exhibited in 1924, even Alfred Stieglitz, her husband and dealer, was surprised by their boldness.
Georgia O'Keeffe's Black Iris is an example of one of her many works on the subject of flowers and in particular the iris, a flower rich in symbolism. However, in Black Iris III, O'Keeffe's goal was not to reference or add to this symbolism, but rather to encourage the viewer to look and see the flower and to consider the different ways people see. Thus, it becomes a profound meditation on the art of looking, not only at art but at life. In this article, Singulart discusses the symbolism projected into O'Keeffe's painting, as well as her own intentions in creating Black Iris III.
Georgia O'Keeffe was concerned with the subject of iris paint for many years, particularly black iris, which was harder to find and only available for a few weeks a year in New York. The iris is a familiar symbol in the Western world: in Greek mythology, the goddess Iris personifies the rainbow and the connection between heaven and earth; In Christianity, the iris symbolizes the passion of Christ and the resurrection, as well as the suffering of Mary. For her part, art historian Linda Nochlin turned O'Keeffe's irises into a feminist symbol by describing them as a “morphological metaphor” for the female genitalia, reflecting “the unity of the feminine and the natural order.” Nochlin's description of Black Iris III and O'Keeffe's other iris paintings anchored them in art history and the history of feminism and feminist art.
However, O'Keeffe rejected this description, stating that: “No one sees a flower, really, it's so small. We don't have time, and seeing takes time like having a friend takes time. If I could paint the flower exactly as I see it, nobody would see what I see because I would paint it as small as the flower is small. So I said to myself: I'll paint what I see, what the flower is to me, but I'll paint it big and they'll be surprised to take the time to look at it, I'll make even busy New Yorkers take the time to see what I see of flowers. I had you take the time to look at what I saw and when you took the time to really notice my flower, you put all your own flower associations into my flower and wrote about my flower as if I think and see what you think and see . the flower, and not me.
No. 10 Exchange - William de Kooning
In 1955, Willem de Kooning completed the work Exchange. He had long focused on reworking figure studies involving women beginning in 1948. These were associated with his 1953 solo exhibition, Paintings on the Subject of Women, which opened in New York City at the time. Some titles of these works include Woman I, Woman III, and Woman V, as well as Two Women with Still Life.
By 1955 de Kooning had stopped painting human figures and continued to use abstract depictions of New York City architecture and communities.
Willem de Kooning used rapid gestural marks on the canvas. The image shows a woman sitting on a chair, but the women only appear as a peaked mass. When naming his paintings, he always preferred a link to the area where he lived. The Exchange got its name from the surrounding area, downtown New York, the place where he lived during that time.
The painting was originally sold by the artist in 1955 for $4,000.
It was then sold by the David Geffen Foundation to Kenneth C. Griffin for $300 million in September 2015, ranking it second on the list of most expensive paintings, second only to Leonardo da Vinci's Salvator Mundi, which sold for 450.3 million dollars in November 2017.
Kuadros, a famous painting on his wall.