Art style describes why an artwork looks the way it looks. It's a window into the artist's creative process to help you understand the artist's vision, subject, and feelings expressed on the canvas. In this list, we outline 11 essential contemporary art styles and their characteristics with examples so you know what to look for and only buy art online that matches your taste and you can relate to.
Abstract art, also known as concrete art or nonobjective art, can be defined as a style wherein the artwork takes an element from the real world and represents it using shapes, colors, forms, and gestural marks but detached from it truest form. Objects are represented by shapes and gestural marks while colors symbolize emotions. In other words, this art style is a non-objective, non-representational form of art that seeks to replicate the essence of the objects from real life in a simplified or reorganized way in order to highlight the artists' interpretation of reality.
Figurative art is the art of realistic representation and has been the goal of art-making since ancient times. Traditionally, figurative artists strove to create works that were derived from real object sources and often depicted human figures. It is regarded as what contrasts abstract art - art that does not employ recognizable motifs - also known as non-representational art. From its evolution to art-making today, we notice that figurative works still have a stronghold in our contemporary sphere. Like many others in the contemporary art world, figurative art has teamed up with other genres such as abstract, cubist and even minimalist art whilst still withholding a strong sense of figuration.
Geometric art is artwork rendered through the use of geometric forms made out of points, lines, angles, and shapes. This art style uses a range of geometric shapes from a simple triangle, square, and circle to complex shapes that requires math to create them. Unlike the natural form of organic shapes, geometric shapes favor precision and may even require using tools like a straight-edge or compass.
Minimalism constitutes of a school of abstraction devoid of personal expression – or at least where personal expression is kept to a minimum. Geometric lines meet a tangent of the utmost simplicity, and forms deliberately lack expressive content.
What drives minimalist artists in creating what Frank Stella describes as “what you see is what you see”, is the belief that art, in all its essence and glory, should not refer to anything but itself. Artists who delved into the minimalist art movement did not prioritize personal expression, but rather stuck the art itself at the forefront of their creations. They push viewers to comprehend the reality of art that is presented to them, their medium, and their materials.
Nature art finds its inspiration in the elements of nature, such as landscapes, gardens, animals, and people. Nature art is accessible across a variety of mediums like painting, drawing, and photography, and this popularity has only increased with the advancement of digital technology. The depiction of this art style has enjoyed acceptance across modern and abstract forms to traditional interpretations.
One might describe Pop Art as the genre that “popped up” over the course of post-war America and Britain during the mid to late 1950s. Distinctively derived from popular and mass culture, artists in this movement sought to explore re-imaginations of commercial imageries. Moreover, it gave way to certain accessibility in approaching art from the perspective of viewers; simplified, recognizable subjects allowed people to digest the artworks in this movement in a less high-brow manner.
Pop Art reached its height in the 1960s. Initially, as a mode of resistance against “dominant” approaches to art and culture, artists within this movement felt an imbalance between what they studied and what directly affected them in their day-to-day life. As such, they turned to what they felt were relevant imageries extracted from advertising, music, comic books, product packaging, and so on.
Portraiture can be broadly defined as a presentation of the likeness, character, beauty, status, or essence of a particular person. This ancient art style has evolved over 5000 years across mediums like paintings, drawings, and sculptures to photography and even video portraits. Some famous examples of Portraiture include the Monalisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, portraits of pharaohs from ancient Egypt, or portraits of Greek and Roman emperors in forms of sculptures and coins! Another form of portraiture is self-portrait - a representational or an abstract or symbolic self depiction by the artist.
Still life art is exactly what it says - art that depicts still or inanimate objects. These objects could be man-made or natural objects such as food, flowers, game, tableware, and so on. On the dark side, the object depicted could also be a dead person. These extreme representations lend a time-tested depth to this art style - celebrating material pleasures of the world or the stark truth of the short-lived existence of these pleasures and human life.
A movement that started in the 1920s, Surrealism sought to tap into the unconscious mind, thus revealing a juxtaposition of irrational imageries. Surrealist imagery is one of the most distinct characteristics of Surrealism. Yet, when trying to define it, one finds themselves rather perplexed. A key quote derived from the Surrealist movement is that of André Breton’s, a French writer and poet. He stated Surrealism as a “psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express - verbally, by means of the written word, or in any other manner - the actual functioning of thought.” What Breton implied was how artists could disregard rational thinking by tapping into their unconscious mind. This further led to ‘automatism’ or ‘automatic writing’, where artists and writers put aside conscious thought and embraced chance through their practice.
Typography is an art style that uses an existing or a new typeface to arrange text in an endeavour to convey a message. A typeface is a way of designing letters of alphabet to express a specific style, feeling, brand identity, or just to help readability. Typography evolved with growth in the print industry and today you can find typography every where - street sighs, posters, books, and internet. This art style is a fundamental aspect of modern art and design.
Urban art is used to describe artworks originating from urban environments and often created by artists living in these urban spaces or cities depicting city life and experiences. While Urban art is interchangeably used with graffiti art or street art, not all Urban art is created as street art or graffiti art but is also created in studios. This art style addresses the urban lifestyle and spaces while also focusing on the negative aspects of urbanization and its impact like poverty, displacement, environment, etc.
Now that you know what are the different contemporary art styles, why not check out our latest curated art collection. You can also chat with our expert curators from any product page.