Art Movements

Art Movements

You will find this page quite useful I am sure. What is Art Movements?

Simply put, a quick guide to the many different styles or genres that artists are or were best known for. You will also find recommendations on books by me. Not only that, but some interesting links if you thirst for more. This list will grow over time, like the rest of this blog.

Table of Contents

Each Art Movement is listed below in the Table of Contents. The recommendations are for books I have read, or videos I have seen. You may have some, please drop me a line if there is something I can include for us all to share.

They’re not in alphabetic order, just in the order I create them!

Abstract Expressionism

Firstly, this is one of the biggies for me. Although it began slightly earlier, it is best recognised as centred in New York in the late 1940s and 1950s. It was also known as the New York School. This style delights as many people as it horrifies. Essentially, it is Art that is created in the subconscious. Art that is “felt” while it is being created. This is how I paint for example. In other words, painters are trying to convey moods and inner feelings rather than painting a picture that looks like something (figurative). Higher meanings are sought. The works are spontaneous, free, flowing.  So a work can be dark and menacing or in your face loud. Or quiet and still.


This movement has a few leading luminaries. Mark Rothko. Jackson Pollock. Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline.  Clyfford Still. De Kooning, Kline and Pollock were more action painters, rapid fire brushstrokes, quick hand gestures. Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Still were more contemplative, focusing on religion and myth for inspiration.

Recommended Reading

So summing up then, if you want to find out more, here is some recommended reading:

Cool Links


Post Impressionism

Firstly, we should recognise that this movement is usually recognised as having four major players. Van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin and one of my idols, Cézanne. They were busy for a period of roughly 20 years. That was from the end of the final impressionist exhibition in 1886, to the birth of Fauvism in 1905.

Paul Gauguin, who is instantly recognisable for his use of an intense colour palette, worked towards using a totally different subject matter than his contemporaries.

Georges Seurat was more scientific with his use of pointillism – yet another movement to know about!

Vincent Van Gogh – well, I don’t need to tell you how different he was? He took art in a totally new and vivacious direction. What an influence he is to us all.

Montagne Sainte-Victoire with Large Pine – Paul Cézanne

Recommended Reading

Cool Links



Firstly, let me say that this is such a huge area I could probably write an entire book on it. Suffice to say, like the rest of this blog it is to whet your appetite. The rest is up to you. In addition it’s fair to say that this is probably the first movement that I had exposure to. It remains a constant favourite. As already mentioned, Monet gave the name to the movement with his Impression, Sunrise work. Strictly speaking, it was artists such as J.M.W. Turner who was a major influence on the impressionists. There was initial revulsion at their work. They ignored the strictures and rules laid down by academics for painting. Funny how time changes things isn’t it?


So, who were the main culprits? Claude Monet. Édouard Manet (although strictly speaking he was a realist initially). Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Paul Cézanne (although he was mainly associated with Post Impressionism). Edgar Degas. Alfred Sisley. Mary Cassatt. Gustave Caillebotte. Camille Pissarro. Jean Frédéric Bazille. Berthe Morisot. The list goes on. Most importantly though, Monet is probably the best known. 

Consequently, what best describes an impressionist work? If we take one of Monet’s later works for example:

Go figure?

The first thing to notice is that there is very little evidence of figurative work. It borders on the abstract. Light brushstrokes, a build up of pastel colours and nuances, a hint at reality. There is a layering of paint, which provides a depth of field and detail. We can only see the final brushstrokes on the top layer of paint. The hint of light in the bottom left of the pictorial plane becomes a gorgeous lilac blue. This then melts into the predominate darker blue middle right. The wisteria is clearly in bloom (only for a couple of weeks per year at best). We can see this at the uppermost right. 

Painting an idea

So we can see that it is the “idea” of the painting, not how it is represented artistically which is key. The artist is trying to convey feeling via his use of deft brushwork and paint colour building. It is not representational in a conventional sense, but the aim is to present us with an image that is everlastingly seared on our memories. Like the majority of Monet’s work. 

Lesser known, but not a lesser talent

Let’s take a peek at a lesser known, but still totally relevant impressionist’s work now, Alfred Sisley. Although he was born in France, he retained British citizenship. Chiefly known for his “En plein air” works, such as:

Sisley had a gorgeous palette to work with here. The subtle blues of the river and sky evoke memories of a halcyon summer long ago. There is a delicacy to his brushwork. His figures are indistinct. But clearly figures. We understand at first glance what the picture is trying to say. Our main focus is on the sky. Sisley’s clever use of the brush clearly define our view. We can feel the sunlight. The use of pastel colours lends an overall warmth to the work. It is simple in construction, yet the effect is fantastic.
Just two paintings, by two great masters of their craft. There are many more for you to discover.

Recommended Reading

Cool Links




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