Abstract Art Has Been Around Longer Than You Think

In 1915, abstract art was the front line of Modern Art. It was cutting-edge stuff.

But in 2015 it is pretty normal. But a hundred years ago, geometric shapes, Cubism, and the first non-objective paintings were avant-garde.

Picasso was sticking rectangles together to make harlequins in 1915.

A hundred years before that, abstract art was virtually unheard of, though you see hints of it in J.M.W. Turner’s work. Here’s something he painted in 1817, the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

Yet if you fire up your TARDIS and go back to 1656 and look at Diego Velázquez’s painting Las Meninas up close, you’ll find it is abstract splotches of paint that loosely suggest reality. It’s practically pointilist.

If you back away it all fits together and resolves. There’s a lot going on in the painting. There has long been a debate over who is the actual subject and whether the piece represents a mirror and if you are viewing it as the King and Queen. Diego even put himself in it.

So when you think about it, abstract art actually existed over 100 years before the United States was founded. Except it really wasn’t a thing, but the groundwork was already laid.

It would take about 200 – 250 years for artists to experiment with abstraction outright. Like Vassily Kandinsky, a Russian artist who applied musical concepts to painting.

I find it interesting that abstract art in 2015 is far more socially acceptable than it was 100 years ago. It’s almost expected now. It makes me wonder how abstract art will be regarded 100 years from now. It’ll probably be tame or boring.

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