Art Styles

What is “Art”?  Honestly, art is something that nearly defies definition, simply because it’s made up of so many factors, i.e. skills, talent, emotions, perspectives, and of course the “acceptance” of others.  As is often said, and should always be remembered, “Art, like beauty, lies solely in the eyes of the beholder”, and therefore to try to be too serious about classifying art as being one thing or the other, is a restraint that true art should never have to bear.  With that said, let’s take a shot at providing some broad definitions that might be useful to many, in trying to understand more about art.

Art Style: Realism
Realism is the art style most people regard as “real art”, where the subject of the painting looks very much like it appears in real life. From a little distance everything looks “real” but up close you’ll see it’s an illusion created by skillful use of paint, of color and tone. The artist uses perspective to create an illusion of reality, setting the composition and lighting to make the most of the subject.  Examples might be “The Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci, as well as other paintings by many of the old masters like Rembrandt.

Art Style: Painterly
Painterly is an art style that is close to realism, but celebrates more the use of paint, through evident brushwork and texture in the paint. It doesn’t try to hide what was used to create the painting by smoothing out any texture, or marks left in the paint by a brush. Painterly is an expressive style that may seem less finished, or even unfinished, to some people, but it’s not a style of painting where the end result is intended to look smooth, and glossy like a photograph. It’s a style that celebrates the materials that created it, and the result is something only a painter could produce.

Art Style: Impressionism
When “Impressionism” first appeared on the art scene in the 19th century, most critics hated and ridiculed it.  But, “Impressionism” is an art style that is still much loved today.  Originally it was then regarded as an unfinished, and rough painting style, but it is now loved, and appreciated, as showing the impact of light filtered through an artistic eye, in a way that shows the rest of us other things that can be seen, if you know how to view it in a different perspective.
“Impressionism” has defined an entirely modern way of expressing artistry, and it eventually also influenced other art forms like literature, photography and film making. A good example of early expressionism is the works of Claude Monet and Pierre Auguste Renoir.

Art Style: Expressionism / Fauvism
Expressionism (originating in Germany), and Fauvism (an art movement of the French), are somewhat similar and both characterized by artists not feeling compelled to use realistic colors, or compelled to use perspective techniques to recreate an illusion of reality. Rather colors are selected to fit the emotion felt, or to create emotional impact.
The “Fauves” were a loosely shaped group of artists sharing a similar approach to nature, but they had no definitive program. Their leader was Henri Matisse, who had arrived at the Fauve style after earlier experimenting with the various techniques.  Another wonderful example of “Expressionism” was Vincent van Gogh.

Art Style Abstract
Abstract art doesn’t try to look like reality; it is an art style that is intentionally non-representational. The colors, the textures and the materials used to create the artwork, are the actual subjects, or point, of the painting.  At its worst, abstract art looks like an accidental mess of paint, and at its best, it can have an impact that strikes you from the moment you see it.
“Abstraction”, is seen as another form of Abstract art, and is about painting the essence of a subject rather than the detail, but still retaining an echo of whatever it is that prompted the concept (unlike a pure abstract, which may not contain even a whim of reality). In “Abstraction”, the subject might, for example, be reduced to the dominant colors, shapes, or patterns.

(blog by Lyle Gilbertson)