A-Z Popular Blog Art Search »
Art Styles
Abstract Art

Renaissance Art

Art Nouveau

Art Characteristics

Art Experiences

Importance Of Art

Visual Arts


Modern Art

Realism Art



Art Direction

Art For Art's Sake

7 Characteristics of Abstract Art

Abstract art is any art that isn't intended to be a visually accurate depiction of the physical world. This can be contrasted with realism that depicts the the real world as it is perceived by the senses. There are many grey areas between these two extremes with art that is somewhat abstract. The following are the basic characteristics of abstract art.

Subjective Reality

Abstract art may depict the subjective reality of the artist such as imagination, emotion or ideas.
Van Gogh, Starry Night, 1888

Style & Technique

One of the myths surrounding abstract art is that it always depicts subjective reality. This isn't true as art may be abstract due to the application of a style or technique. For example, Cubism that stylizes a scene with the geometrization of form or Futurism that depicts overlapping forms that capture the passing of time. Both of these techniques can be seen in this work by Marcel Duchamp.
Marcel Duchamp, Nude Descending a Staircase No 2, 1912


Abstract art may depict intangible elements of a subject, scene and moment such as mood as opposed to the visual realities of the scene.
Edvard Munch,Vampire, 1895

Color & Light

Colors and lighting that are stylized or subjective. For example, Pablo Picasso's blue period in which the artist produced monochromatic works of mostly blue between 1901 and 1904. This reflected a somber mood as opposed to the realities of the scene and subjects he painted.
(Pablo Picasso, Woman with Bangs, 1902)


Abstract works may express ideas as symbols, metaphor and allegory.
Gustav Klimt, Hope II, 1908


Minimalism is art that reduces elements such as form and color to their most basic incarnations. Western minimalism often resembles modern design with its use of basic geometric shapes. Due to its similarity with design and its sterile qualities it is often used as an element of commercial interior decoration. It is common to confuse abstract art with minimalism. Minimalism in art is always abstract. However, abstract art isn't always minimalism. Abstract art can be unbelievably complex and is far more diverse than minimalism.
Kazimir Malevich, Suprematism, 1915

Free Expression

Abstract art often breaks the rules of its time and place as an expression of the unconstrained freedom of the artist. For example, Vincent van Gogh plays with perspective to give the work Bedroom in Arles a dream-like quality.
Vincent van Gogh, Bedroom in Arles, 1888


The majority of well known modern and postmodern art is at least somewhat abstract. As such, abstraction is the rule not the exception.
Overview: Abstract Art Characteristics
Art that isn't intended to be a visually accurate depiction of the physical world.
Commonly Confused With
Opposite Of
Key Points
All art can be placed on a scale between complete abstraction and complete realism with many grey areas in-between.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about art.
Abstract Art
Art Activities
Art Business
Art Experiences
Art Forms
Art Nouveau
Art Styles
Art World
Art's Sake
Artistic License
Characteristics of Art
Color Theory
Found Objects
Importance Of Art
Modern Art
Negative Space
Vanishing Point
Venus Effect
Visual Arts
If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.


A list of art terms.


An overview of the basic characteristics of impressionism that make it instantly recognizable.

Modern Art

An overview of the major styles of modern art with examples of each.


An overview of romantic art with a list of its basic characteristics.

Abstract Art

The major types of abstract art with an example of each.

Renaissance Art

The defining characteristics of Renaissance art.

Art Forms

A list of the common art forms.

Art Nouveau

The basic characteristics of Art Nouveau with examples.


A list of professions and creative pursuits that are considered art.


The definition of abstraction with examples.

Analytical Thinking

The definition of analytical thinking with examples.

Random Opposite

The true opposites of random.

Real Opposite

The real opposites of real.


The definition of meaning with examples.


A few definitions of concept.


A few definitions of complementary.

Definition Of Definition

A few definition of definition.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map