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What is abstact art?

Abstract comes from the Latin abs-trahere. It means to remove, distance or omit. Translated into abstract art it means 'distance from reality'.

Because you distance yourself from reality, your imagination is addressed. And that is precisely the beauty of abstract art. You are going to search in what you see.

By abstracting a realistic form is simplified or changed so that we no longer recognize it as such. Piet Mondrian started to abstract a tree. By abstracting the tree further and further, he eventually arrived at the paintings of which you know him with only lines and primary colors.

If you are also wondering what is abstract art and you then look up the term in a dictionary, you will see this definition:

Abstract art is art that avoids the similarity between the artwork and the visible reality.

An abstract artist does not strive to depict reality through his artwork. Instead, he uses shapes, colors, lines and structures and one or more materials to express his feelings or emotions.

Piet Mondriaan Compositie

Mondrian has several works such as this Composition 2. The black lines with colored squares are very recognizable. The colors run on, off the canvas and therefore give a dynamic image. In abstract art you are invited to look at the artwork with your own imagination.

Do you see a painting in his Composition, ... or only a small part of a much larger painting?

What is the difference between abstract art and figurative art?

As an abstract artist my own paintings are of course in abstract style. Because my paintings do not show anything recognizable, you will not always immediately understand them. But that is not always the intention. Approach my art with your feeling and not with your mind. See what it does to you, what feelings it arouses in you. Abstract art is not just about what you see, but also about what it evokes in you.


I once wrote about what affects me, as an abstract artist, personally, when I create a work of art. You can read this article here.


Abstract art belongs to the movement of modern art. I will soon write a blog about modern art and the difference with "old art" so that you can read more about it.

Whether you like an abstract painting partly depends on your imagination. You don't even have to see or feel the same as what the artist felt or thought when he made the work to like a work of art. But an abstract painting must appeal to you, give you a good feeling,… in your gut.

An answer to the question What is abstract art could be that Abstract Art is the product of people's creativity, without this product having to approach physical reality. Therefore, the appreciation of an abstract work of art is purely personal and highly subjective.

Now that the question What is Abstract Art has been answered, we can delve deeper into figurative art.


Abstract art does not represent a visible reality. Abstract art offers space for your own feeling and imagination. The counterpart of abstract art is figurative art; art that wants to represent reality. This art form that represents the visually visible reality in a recognizable way is also called realistic art.

Within figurative art you can distinguish a number of art genres such as landscapes, animals, cityscapes, portraits and still lifes. What a figurative painting of a landscape (or sea view) or of a portrait looks like will be clear.

This may be less obvious for the still life genre. A still life is a painting, drawing or photo with inanimate or at least motionless objects, in which lighting and light play an important role.

Common types of still life are:

  • Flower still life
  • Fruit still life
  • Breakfast gens, Banquet gens and Sea banquet (artistic compositions of certain delicacies on tasty set dining tables)
  • Hunting pieces (Dead pheasants, pigeons, deer and other game)
  • Toebackjes (still life with tobacco and similar items)

Still lifes were very popular in the 17th century. They often have specific symbolism. In this way they can radiate wealth and opulence, or, on the contrary, thrift, temperance and diligence, learning or victory.

But be careful when interpreting still lifes. Because still lifes are usually not based on an explicit story, the painting can often be given several meanings. Often in a religious relationship or with an erotic meaning.

Below I will shortly list a number of well-known still lifes and their possible symbolism.

abstract artist - Mondriaan
what is abstract art - abstraheren
what is the difference between figurative and abstract
Abstraheren in abstract art

Colourful Original Abstract art is timeless. If you have a beautifully hand-painted painting, you can let it hang for years without getting bored.

You can hang abstract art all over the house. Whether it hangs in your office, in the living room, in the hallway or in your bedroom. At home there are even paintings in the bathroom and toilet. And a painting can also look good in a children's room. Although I have noticed that it is best for the younger children to have something recognizable in the abstract artwork, a semi-abstract artwork.

See the example below of such an original work of art that is appreciated by both an adult and a child.

Abstract Art is Timeless

Are you looking for an inspiring hand-painted abstract painting? Take a look at my collection and discover that beautiful art does not have to be expensive. And certainly not when you consider how many years you will enjoy it.

Example of a semi-abstract painting
Abstract painting to be loved by child and adult

What does abstract mean and what is abstract art?

 What does abstract mean and where does the word come from?

By abstracting a realistic form is simplified or changed so that we no longer recognize it as such.

Opinions sometimes differ about the origins of abstract art. Did we see the first abstract creations around 1900, after the invention of photography, or was there abstract art much earlier?


This of course depends on how you intend abstract art when asking what is abstract art.

Human evolution began some 3 million years ago with "imagination" of the first human primate; the Australopithecus Africanus. Abstraction, the distance from everyday reality, has always been a way for humans to better cope with difficult circumstances. A hammer is figurative and easy to imagine for everyone. Yet it took about 3 million years to depict the first hammer.


We see fiurative and abstract as well as figurative images in all prehistoric caves around the Mediterranean. These wall drawings were made about 40,000 years ago. In the caves of Lascaux are drawings of squares and rectangles with an image of a man with a bird mask and a bull. It is clearly not a hunting scene; they will not have hunted that way. Rather, it appears to be a representation of a dream.


Shapes such as wavy lines, a circle, crescent moon, triangle, single lines, a spiral, a five-pointed star and the hashtag (#) can also be found on the walls of caves. Think of this as the first image signs that the first humans used to communicate, to convey information. In fact, these originally abstract symbols are the origin of the written language.


What is, and when was the origin of abstract art?

Many abstract artists are very gifted professionals who can also very successfully create realistic paintings.

The fact that these artists switch to abstraction has to do with their need to express themselves optimally creatively, without being limited by the lines and colors of a landscape, portrait or still life.

The abstract artist wants to give his creativity complete freedom and to express his creativity, without having to limit himself to that which is recognizable and visually reducible.

Why would a figurative painter want to paint in an abstract manner?