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Differences between Representational, Non-Representational, and Abstract Art

Paintings, sculptures, and other forms of art can be sorted into three main categories which are recreational, non-representational, and abstract art to better define each piece of work. Representational art is artwork that can be seen to have been derived for the visible, natural world therefore representing them. These can be found in things like paintings and sculptures. The majority of abstract art is derived form the natural world, but if the art has no relation to the natural world it is know as non-recreational art.

Representational art is clearly recognizable. Be it from a painting of a tree or a reenactment of a war scene, these all can be put under the term of representation art. Such images need not be true to life. So a tree does not have to be green, or even upright, but it must clearly represent or be recognizable as a tree. The most ancient art can be known to be representational. This kind of art can be dated back as fast as the Stone Age. Paices of art like “Venus of Tan-Tan”, which is the oldest know representation of the human form and the painting of animals in the caves of Altamira, Spain, are the beginning stages of representational art. Modern representational art derives largely from Greek and Roman art. For example, as shown by the Greek sculptures such as “The Marathon Youth” by Praxiteles and “The Dying Gaul” by Epigones, these sculptures were heavily influenced by representation art. One of the finest examples of representational Roman sculpture is the spiral bas-relief on Trajan’s Column. These works were the basis for the later Italian Renaissance, which itself had a huge influence on artists up until the 20th century.

Then there’s abstract art. Romanticism, Impressionism, and Expressionism all paved the way for the emergence of abstract art in the nineteenth century. Artists became less interested in depicting things exactly like they really exist, giving us abstract art. Abstract work can range from somewhat representing an actual thing, to not at all representing anything of physical form. Abstraction represents separation from the physical world in depiction of imagery in art. Abstract art can refer to compositions that are derived or abstracted from a figure or other natural source. It can also refer to nonrepresentational art that has no derivation from figures or objects. Picasso is a well-known artist who used abstraction in many of his paintings and sculptures: figures are often simplified, distorted, exaggerated, or geometric.

Lastly there is non-representation artwork. This type of artwork does not depict anything from the real world. Non-representational art may simply depict shapes, colors, lines, but may also express things that are not visible like emotions or feelings. Non-representational art is highly subjective and can be difficult to define. We can focus on the elements of the artwork (form, shape, line, color, space, and texture) in terms of the aesthetic value of the work, but the meaning will always be personal to the viewer. Nonrepresentational art has often been explored by artists as a means to spiritual expression. For example, Wassily Kandinsky, one of the most famous artist of the 20th entry often used this type artistic representation.

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