Morris Louis 'Where' 1960
Sehzade Mosque Istanbul, Turkey - Mimar Sinan 1548
All art is Abstract and Abstract values can be seen in Art that we would not consider to be connected to Abstraction.
Giovanni Bellini - 'Madonna of the Meadow' c1500
The art Critic Matthew Collings has discussed the use of geometric abstract compositions in Renaissance art and modernist abstract art. In this painting Bellini uses geometry to create his composition. He has used a number of triangles to build up the composition.
The Madonna is a large triangle taking up the whole composition.
Within that triangle there are three smaller triangles.
Kazimir Malevich 'Suprematism with Blue Triangle and Black Square' 1915
Malevich's Supremacist painting seemed revolutionary at the time - and it was. It seems to have nothing to do with the past and is a truly new type of art. However, the modernists were very interested in the art of the pasts use of geometry.
"It is the olds use of pure geometry that the new is very interested in."-
"a visual tradition for future artist to draw on"
Figurative art is held together by abstract values and abstract art uses traditional ideas.
Paul Cezanne 'Still life with plaster cupid' 1895
Pablo Picasso 'Les Demoiselles d'Avignon' 1907
Humans have always stylised and abstracted images. However, Western Art has been dominated by figurative Art and the pursuit of realism. Modernism moved away from the figurative and the 20th Century was dominated by abstraction and questioning what Art is and what it could be.
There are numerous reasons for this transition but there are two key influences. The first reason is connected to the invention of photography and its influence on the way Artists created images (read here for an in-depth look at Photography's influence on Modern Art). The second reason (which is connected to the first) is Picasso's Cubists paintings (influenced by Cezanne) and the influence these approaches had on Modern Art (read here for a study of Cubism).
The Modernist Artists of the 20th Century continued to push the limits of Art.
Henri Matisse left to right 'The Back I' 1908-1909, 'The Back II' 1913, 'The Back III' 1916, 'The Back IV' 1931 Bronze
"I sculpted as a painter, I did not sculpt like a sculptor. Sculpture does not say what painting says."
For over 20 years Henri Matisse, primarily known as a painter, returned to the same subject of a female back. However, each time the form was simplified. Even though the figure is made from Bronze Matisse is still working like a Painter. The work is more of a relief than a sculpture - with the figure emerging from the rock. In the first sculpture, from 1908/09, we can see the curves and contours of the figure and we get the sense of a physical human form in front of us. Five years later we can still see the figure clearly but the curved lines are becoming more straight and harsh. There is a more dramatic shift when Matisse approaches the sculpture for a third time. The spine, a subtle line on his initial sculpture, becomes a bold central line that holds the figure together. It has been combined with the head and hair from the original form to become a dominating presence. By the final sculpture the form has been reduced to almost an abstract state while retaining a quality of a child's drawing. In fact it the last sculpture has the same qualities as Matisse's late work - his Cut Outs.