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Abstract art has its roots in the changing world of the early 20th century. The industrial revolution inspired new ways of thinking, and artists were ready to embrace new ideas and techniques in response to a more mechanized and fast-paced environment. Change was in the air everywhere.

Cezanne and his fellow Post-Impressionists paved the way. Picasso and his contemporary Georges Braque soon followed, turning the art of seeing and the use of perspective on its head and giving us a highly influential new movement known as cubism.

However, it is Wassily Kandinsky who gets credit as the painter of the first truly abstract artwork in 1911. Inspired by a glimpse of one of his own paintings turned on its side in his studio, he quickly recognized the potential of this altered vision. of the world and the possibilities that he opened up for her as an artist. He began to use shapes, lines, and colors to paint the music he loved and interpret the world as he saw it. The result is an astonishing body of vibrant abstract work that has endured in popularity through the decades.

Kandinsky’s book ‘On Spirituality in Art’ also reflected a growing need among artists to express something other than the received notion of ‘reality’. In Russia, Kasimir Malevich wanted to free himself from the constraints of this reality. He set out to simplify everything in his art and produced his most famous painting, ‘Black Square’, in 1913. A simple black square, Malevich believed, would allow his work to communicate the raw emotion he wanted to convey, clear of recognizable objects. The impact of him was profound.

Dutch artist Piet Mondrian also believed that what mattered most in painting was not a representation of our tangible, everyday world, but a representation of a world beyond: the world of the spirit. He produced his famous grid paintings throughout the 1920s, using only primary colors on a white background, all brilliantly positioned with a series of black lines. There is nothing random about the placement of color in these seemingly simple paintings, Mondrian’s deep understanding of what works is easily confirmed: swapping one color for another or altering a position loses the impact of the original painting. .

The power of abstraction in art gained momentum as the century progressed. Younger artists who emerged during the interwar years embraced it in their quest to make sense of their war-threatened and uncertain world. Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, among others, found a freedom in abstract art that allowed them to make bold statements. They were very individualistic in their approach to their art, but they were all united by the need to give voice to the strong emotions they felt. Theirs was the disturbing and unstable world of pre- and post-war America.

Towards the end of the 1930s, for the first time, New York, and not Paris, became the center of the art world, and these artists were at the forefront of that change. There was a new energy at play: an influx of European artists, refugees from the turbulent events in Europe, brought new ideas and influences and created a powerful new synergy. New York was the ideal platform for this handful of new artists who were destined to create some of the most famous abstract art in history.

Jackson Pollock became famous for his drip paintings and was nicknamed ‘Jack the Dripper’ in a newspaper article at the time. His distinctive style of drops, swirls, and splatters of paint gives the impression of chaos and a completely random approach to the finished work, but this belies a complex and spiritual process the painter engaged in. Far from being chaotic, Pollock’s paintings reflect mathematical patterns found in nature, a fact that has been established by recent scientific analyzes of his work. Pollock may not have understood it, but his paintings tell us that he was communicating with the natural world at the deepest level.

Mark Rothko also engaged in a deeply spiritual soul-searching process during the creation of his work, in a quest to create space and depth through the use of color. His success in achieving this is evident when you stand in front of one of his large canvases and find yourself drawn to the painting.

In all of these famous abstract paintings, the artist communicates something that is almost intangible but carries a powerful message. It may be that we instinctively recognize aspects of our shared human experience or a shared sense of connection to something deeper, something beyond our immediate reality.

Those of us who love abstract art take our place among generations of art lovers who have stood in front of these great paintings and been moved by them. Walking away feeling that powerful sense of connection is what it’s all about.

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