Painting is the practice of applying paint or other media such as pigment or colour to a surface, usually with a brush. Other tools can also be used among which are knives, airbrushes and sponges. Common surface for painters is a canvas, which is a piece of fabric stretched on a wooden frame. Other bases are also used and their material varies from wood to metal, porcelain and even rock.

First paintings were created up to 32000 years ago in caves, so it is clear that painting has been an important way for humans to express themselves for a substantial period of our existence. Artistic painting styles have been developed through time and different art movements have brought to us ideas, ideals and styles that we see today in museums as well as in current artists’ paintings. New movements and methods often evolve from current events and ideals in the world as well as from artists’ desire to challenge the status quo. It seems as almost every new artistic movement has risen from a group of artists’ dissatisfaction with the old and existent values in the art world. They aspire to shake the old and, in their minds, stale art world of their time.

Abstract Art

Abstract art refers to a style of painting that does not use figurative reality as a reference. Instead, the artist alludes to their subject and reduces it to a simplified form. It uses a visual language of shape, form, color and line to create a composition, which may exist with a degree of independence from visual references in the world. Even the most simplified looking paintings have a great deal of thought, planning and process behind them.

Abstract painting is not restricted by requirements of depiction, in fact, the vagueness of representational subject allows for the viewer to appreciate the colour and composition of the piece without the distraction of a scene. Abstract art can be viewed and enjoyed from one’s own perspective and feelings. Pablo Picasso has said: “Everyone wants to understand art. Why not try to understand the song of a bird? …people who try to explain pictures are usually barking up the wrong tree.” Picasso has a point in that art should be viewed and felt, not deciphered. This is especially true with abstract art.

Famous abstract artists include: Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miró, Kazimir Malevich, Mark Rothko, Juan Gris, Sonia Delaunay, Theo van Doesburg, Naum Gabo, Jackson Pollock, Morris Louis, Frank Stella, and Victor Vasarely.

Conceptual Art


Conceptual art is a modern art style where the artist believes that concept is more important than artwork itself. The movement begun in the 1960s and the term is generally used for art made from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. However, many artists today utilize conceptual art style in their work.

Many conceptual artists believed that while they conceived the work, it is completed by the viewer. Thus, conceptual art often has a political or social message in which the reactions and discussions that are generated by it are a part of the piece itself or even the main objective. In fact, many times an artist produces only a set of instructions for a third party to produce into an exhibition piece. Conceptual artists, rather than deciding beforehand on a media upon which they seek to
express their idea, choose a media that is the most suitable to convey their chosen concept or idea. Therefore, conceptual art can take nearly any kind of form and artists often utilize a combination of methods to communicate with viewer such as painting, photography, sculpture, installation, performance art, video and sound.

Primary artists in the conceptual art movement are Joseph Kosuth, Marina Abramovic , Ed Ruscha, Robert Rauschenberg, Marcel Broodthaers, Walter de Maria, Hans Haacke, Yoko Ono, Dan Graham


Futurism is a painting style that concerns itself with subjects like the technology, speed, violence, and the future of the world. It emphasizes the depiction of man’s triumph over nature. This movement rejects the establishment and praises originality. Futurism was created in Italy in the beginning of the 1900s. Futurism was not only an art movement but a system of thought. Artists despised museums and general admiration of historical objects and events, they were keen to discard the past and look to the future in the society as well as art. The movement celebrated the “machine age” and technological development.

When it comes to art, futurists were fascinated with movement and it shows in their art as blurred images of moving objects, animals and humans. They were inspired by early visual technology, especially chrono-photography, which enabled moving pictures and artists were using and experimenting with different painting styles to attempt to capture movement. To recreate this level of emotional dynamism on canvas, futurist painters adopted the cubist style of painting where they deconstruct subjects into geometric figures to show movement.

Famous futurists are: Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini, Giacomo Balla, Carlo Carrà and Natalia Goncharova.


Hyperrealism takes a step further from the photorealism art movement. Artists use high-resolution cameras to take photographs and paint them on canvas. Compared to photorealism, however, hyperrealist paintings have exaggerated shadows and inanimate objects display lifelikeness, even though they do not normally possess these qualities. Hyperrealism focuses on a false “super” reality, its feels more real than reality itself, therefore, deceiving the viewers eye.

Hyperrealist art magnifies its subjects in a way that would not be possible to see with human eye were it not zoomed in. Some pieces seem so real that it is often hard to distinguish it from a photograph. Hyperrealism painting requires exceptional talent and tremendous precision and the artists truly seek to challenge themselves.

Known hyperrealism artists include: Gottfried Helnwein, Ian Hornak, István Sándorfi,
Willem van Veldhuizen, Thomas Arvid, Andrey Lekarski and Nestor Garcia Leynes.


Impressionism is one of the earliest modern painting styles that originated in Paris, France. It is characterized by thin brushstrokes and an emphasis on the depiction of light. Painting was often finished fast as it aimed to catch a certain light before it was gone. This led to more inaccurate outcome and contributed to the adoption of the term “impressionism”. There was not a one, universal painting style among the impressionists and many of them preferred to paint in more definitive techniques. Bigger emphasis was placed on the subjects.

Impressionist artists wanted to paint real life, everyday scenes and aspects of the society that were not usually depicted in fine art. This included social occasions, streets, cafés and people that frequented them. Idea was to capture fleeting moments behind the scenes as opposed to the carefully prepared compositions of the day. Many of these themes were far from the conventional art of the day, which wanted to steer away from the less glorious aspects of society.

Artists often painted outdoors to capture the sunlight and colour of their subjects. There was no posing, the artists rather portrayed people and situations as if they were looking in, as if the subjects did not know they were being painted. They were observers of life. In the 1870s, Impressionist paintings were considered radical because they did not paint according to the prevailing rules. Impressionist artists were even banned from participating in the very important exhibition for French art, the salon, which lead to the forming of a rogue salon to exhibit the refused artist’s work. Impressionism started gaining popularity initially in America in the late 1880s until which time most of the impressionist artists lived economically very humble lives.

Important impressionist artists: Claude Monet, Berthe Morisot, Paul Cézanne, Alfred Sisley, Mary Cassatt, James Whistler, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Camille Pissarro, Gustave Caillebotte and Édouard Manet.


Minimalism is an art movement that is, as expected, characterized by simplicity. Instead of energy-filled self-expression as is the hallmark of abstract expressionism, minimalist art, on the other hand, paints only what the artist believes is necessary. Minimalist art avoids drama and rather concentrates on the material. It aims to remove all expression, symbolism, metaphors and external references or references to the artist themselves.

Minimalist art movement seeks to distance itself from conventional fine art. It embraces simple, cold, geometric forms painted sometimes in just one colour. The compositions are calculated and forms are regular so as to emphasize equality. Minimalist colour schemes favour cool shades for which the simplistic shapes provide a showcase. Minimalist artists’s most commonly used media are sculpture and painting, however, the distinction between the traditional definitions of the two are deliberately blurred in works of art.

Artists in the minimalist movement include painters Frank Stella, Brice Marden, Jo Baer, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Robert Mangold and Robert Ryman and sculptors Tony Smith, Ronald Bladen, Donald Judd, Carl Andre, Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Dan Flavin and Richard Serra.


From the name itself, a photorealist painting is one that looks as realistic as a photograph. This is done by taking a picture of the subject and then painting it. Photorealism is an art movement influenced by pop art, and it ran counter as a reaction to abstract expressionism. Subjects were often everyday scenes of cities, objects and food. There was no room for idealism, imagination or abstraction. However, contrasting with the notion of realism, artists aim to paint the realism that a photograph depicts rather than the human eye. Thus, many artists mimic the qualities such as blurriness and different focus points that are used in photography as means of emphasis. Unlike abstract art or conceptual art, photorealist painting has to be done by an artist who possesses advanced technical ability to capture the realism of the photograph onto canvas.

A step further from photorealism is hyperrealism (these two terms are sometimes used synonymously in painting) where the real is made even more real through artificial enhancement.

Some of the central artists of the photorealist movement are: Ralph Goings, Audrey Flack, Chuck Close, Malcolm Morley, Don Eddy, Richard Estes, Robert Bechtle and Denis Peterson.

Pop Art

Pop art paintings were a reaction to abstract expressionism, which mid-1950s British artists believed was art that was far-removed from daily life. Pop Art revolved around mundane subjects like comic books, advertising, celebrities, and other objects found in the everyday. It was a return to realism and representation in art.

Pop artists took everyday items, popular culture and media as their subject matter and aimed to promote them to the level of fine art. They took inspiration from the growth of commercialism after WWII and believed that there should be no hierarchy in art and culture and that art can rise from anywhere. Most of the pop artists of the time had a background in commercial art and they drew inspiration from those techniques in their art. Some artists seemed to celebrate
commercialism and the rise of capitalism in their art whereas others could be perceived to suggest criticism towards it in their paintings and prints.

Because of the use of popular culture icons as well as commercial subjects pop art has become the most recognizable and a fairly easily approachable style of modern art.

Some of the most know pop artists are Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, James Rosenquist, Claes Oldenburg, Ed Ruscha, Richard Hamilton, Edouardo Paolozzi, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Konrad Lueg.


Surrealism is a modern painting style that puts various, often unrelated in comparison to each other, images together to give a surprising effect. The images are often illogical and have a dream-like quality about them. The movement begun in Paris in the 1920s and is still inspiring artists today.

The idea behind surrealism is to let imagination free and not to think about the rationality of the subjects and the composition. The mind behind surrealism is André Breton who believed that like dreams, creativity rises from the unconscious mind. Surrealism also embraces the idea that art does not have to be restricted to be produced by a single creative mind. This has led to artist producing collaborative compositions independent of each other and unaware of each other’s plan, idea or the final artwork. This method often produces nonsensical artwork that truly rises from the unconsciousness of the collaborating artists.

The unleashing of unrestricted creativity combined with combination of random seeming subjects often produce concepts and compositions that appear humorous to the looker. Yet, different objects depicted on surrealist art often have meaning, which makes seeking ideas and the artist’s intent behind these curious portrayals interesting and entertaining.

The most important surrealist painters are: Joan Miró, Yves Tanguy, Man Ray, André Masson, Rene Magritte, Salvador Dalí, Meret Oppenheim, Alberto Giacometti, Max Ernst and Dorothea Tanning.