Abstract Art Painting(s)

Written by Sarah Provost
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Abstract art paintings often require more effort and attention from the viewer than the works that have gone before them. From Van Gogh through Picasso and the Cubists, artists gradually trained our eye to see differently, opening the way for expressionism, minimalism and other schools of abstract art paintings. While there is plenty of mystery in, say, Murillo's Two Women at a Window, it is a human mystery of relationships and the passage of time. We may wonder what these women see, or why the older woman is so amused, but we know what we're looking at: two women at a window.

When it comes to abstract art paintings by Miro, Rothko or Pollock, on the other hand, we can't be so certain. Our response tends to be visceral rather than intellectual or even emotional. But it's important, when looking at abstract art paintings, to give them an appropriate amount of time and attention to reveal themselves.

With a painting such as Caraveggio's Bacchus, for instance, its easy to spend time looking at details and thinking about their significance. The wormhole in the apple suggests an underlying decay in this portrait of pleasure, for one simple example. But what are we to make of Pollack's drips and dribbles, or Mondran's juxtaposed grids of primary colors? As Robert Frost said of poetry, these paintings "should not mean, but be."

Meaning in Abstract Art Paintings

The search for meaning in such paintings may well repay your time and effort. But it may be more to the point to simply let them enter your consciousness and see whether they find it comfortable there. Especially when you're considering purchasing art to live with, your personal level of interest in and enjoyment of the painting is crucial, while "understanding" it may be secondary.

Ella Fitzgerald was the queen of scat singing. The syllables made no literal sense, but the buoyancy and energy of the song was palpable. So, too, abstract art paintings like Pollock's late works have no meaning aside from the sense of energy, even ecstasy, that they communicate.

Appreciate Abstract Art Paintings on Their Own Terms

Color field painting, for example, takes color itself as its subject. A canvas such as Helen Frankenthaler's Wales is "about" yellow, and how it relates to lavender, green and blue. To search for a literal representation or an inherent theme is beside the point. It's a happy painting in and of itself, with no reference to outside concepts of happiness.

Minimalist painting, too, takes time to appreciate. Often a viewer will look at what appears to be a white canvas and wonder what the fuss is about. But if you open yourself to a work such as Agnes Martin's Untitled No. 3, subtleties of color gradually bloom on the canvas, all the more poignant for their delicacy and reticence.

The more abstract art paintings you look at, the more you will come to appreciate them. The Internet is a great blessing to anyone who would like to see a variety of art. Online galleries and museums are there at your fingertips, offering you the opportunity to look at hundreds, maybe thousands of paintings and discover the ones that thrill you.


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