Abstract art has been around for over a century. Though some assert that abstraction began with cave paintings thousands of years ago, the origins of abstract art as a movement came to fruition in the late 19th century. During this time, new developments and fundamental changes in the fields of technology, science, and philosophy inspired many artists to create a new style that embodied the rapidly evolving world in which they now lived. As more secular ideals formed, artists sought a deeper and divine connection to their world and in turn, departed from figurative and representational work and moved toward explorations in abstraction.
Abstract art—also commonly referred to as nonobjective art—is painting, sculpture, or graphic art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of visual reality. By definition, to “abstract” means to “extract or remove” one thing from another. Thus, abstract art draws from fundamental elements of painting such as color, shape, and line, and renders subject matter as pared-down, indistinct forms.
The term is also used to classify art that does not take its inspiration from external physical or visual sources such as geometric shapes, highlighting the point that abstract art is not representational and could be created from a real-world object, or no object at all.
Abstract artists strive to be non-representational, which allows their work to be interpreted based upon the viewer’s individual set of experiences and associations. Where Cubist artists like Pablo Picasso presented an exaggerated or distorted view of the world, abstract artists instead use form and color as the focus and subject of a piece, devoid of any conceptual realism.