Many abstract painters emerged after the first painting of Wassily Kandinsky was displayed to the public.
In 1911, he created his first abstract painting.
This had not only become a famous abstract painting but also inspired the upcoming generation to contribute to this versatile genre.
In this article, I’m going to share 21 famous abstract paintings that have a rich history, filled with fascinating facts, stories, etc.
1. Black Square By Kazimir Malevich
Black Square was Kazimir’s most famous abstract painting.
Without a question, it was one of the famous abstract paintings that supported its Avant-Garde art movement.
The movement talks about any art or artist that breaks with precedent which is considered boundary-pushing.
Before creating Black Square, the artist had spent over one and half years of time in his studio. The time when he worked on thirty non-objective paintings.
After that, he painted Black Square and the primary reason for its popularity is it was displayed in The Last Futurist Exhibition 0, 10 in 1915.
When Kazimir introduced it to the real world, it was frequently invoked by critics and artists as the ‘Zero Point of Painting’.
Also, the world was in chaos, and that’s why most folks started recognizing it which did not have any symbolic meaning. However, it evidently showcased the purpose of the artist which was resolving artistic problems.
Today, you can find this abstract masterpiece at The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
2. Composition VII By Wassily Kandinsky
Compared with Kandinsky’s other artworks, it was a different abstract painting, opposite to ideas of traditional representational of Western art.
Although the artist had created several artworks, it was his debut entry into abstract art.
When Composition VII was displayed, many historical figures formed mixed opinions about it.
They claimed that the painting had combined several themes namely Resurrection, the Judgement Day, the Flood, and the Garden of Era.
The painting depicts different shapes and colors. It was intended to appeal to human emotions.
Like Kandinsky’s Black Square, this famous abstract painting was also housed by The State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
3. Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow, 1930 by Piet Mondrian
This famous abstract painting supported the Dutch art movement named De Stijl.
Piet was evidently inspired by the movement, that’s why he was on the front foot.
At the time, he joined the group which was trying to give a tough response to the horrors of World War I.
The motive was to redefine art altogether. Basically to bring its essence back and set new rules that ensured not to ruin any art by World War I effect.
Composition II was painted with bright colors and defined lines separating squares. This painting technique later became Mondrian’s signature work in record time.
Mondrian’s composition had not only become a famous abstract painting but also influenced the aesthetics of the 21st century.
This phenomenal abstract artwork is in the collection of the National Museum in Belgrade, Serbia.
4. Convergence By Jackson Pollock
Jackson’s Convergence is the most famous abstract expressionist painting from the 20th century.
The painting features a wide range of dark colors, swirls, lines, etc.
Although drip painting is acceptable today, it was prohibited to practice this type of art back then.
That’s why Convergence was Jackson’s controversial work as the artist freely supported those who were fighting for freedom of speech.
This was the time when the US was under threat and artists had limited creative opportunities.
Despite all the controversy involved in it at different time frames, Albright-Knox Art Gallery was ready to acquire it.
In 1956, after Jackson’s death, the gallery purchased his painting and has been housed since then.
5. Tableau I, 1921 by Piet Mondrian
This meaningful abstract painting was made when Mondrian moved to Paris.
Before that, he was into Modern Art, Cubism, De Stijl, and other genres.
However, later, after moving from the Netherlands to Paris, he shifted into the world of abstract art and continued working on this genre.
This famous abstract painting depicts the separation of color by lines and shapes. Basically, he used geometric blocks that combined to form one piece of art.
Mondrian’s Tableau I was his best abstract artwork as it represented his ideas about the nature of the universe.
6. Mountains And Sea By Helen Frankenthaler
This artist needs no introduction!
Helen Frankenthaler was one of the prolific abstract expressionists. She was the major contributor to American art produced post-war.
Mountains and Sea was her first painting which was later considered as one of the finest abstract painting ideas.
Basically, She placed an unprimed canvas onto the floor, stained some colors onto it that were diluted with Turpentine to create eye-catching textures.
The overall idea was to let the colors bleed and form delicate evocation of hills, rocks, and water.
Did you know? This was the artwork that was once compared with a phenomenal abstract artwork titled ‘Impression, Sunrise’.
The National Gallery of Art, Washington owns this abstract artwork. It has been in its collection for years now.
7. No. 5, 1948 By Jackson Pollock
Jackson’s No. 5 was the key work in abstract expressionism.
He used a unique painting style to create this drip artwork.
Similar to Helen’s Mountain and Sea, Jackson also placed the canvas onto the floor and applied paint from the hardened brush, sticks, and basting syringes.
This famous abstract painting was the marker of the action painting.
It was Jackson’s No. 5 that made people recognize action painting as drip painting.
Needless to say, this abstract canvas painting was one of the world’s most expensive paintings.
It was sold for $140 million and successfully listed as one of the record-breaking abstract artworks.
Not only did Jackson’s No. 5 generate handsome profits, but his other paintings were also sold in millions of dollars.
8. Suprematist Composition By Kazimir Malevich
Suprematist is one of the famous abstract paintings in Russian Art.
Suprematist Composition, a famous abstract painting depicts a constellation of geometric shapes in different colors.
Basically, the artists tried to express that there is something more original, more universal than the true image of the natural world.
In the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung, Berlin, it was exhibited. However, in a few years, it was sold to Hug Haring, the renowned German architect.
Thereafter, he sold this abstract canvas art to Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam which stayed for nearly 50 years.
However, in the end, from moving from one museum to another, it was lastly acquired by Brett Gorvy, a British art dealer at a Christie’s auction.
Some sources claimed that Kazimir’s Suprematist Composition was acquired at one of the highest rates in the history of Russian art.
9. Triptych Bleu I, II, III By Joan Miro
This famous abstract painting idea was a set of three-part displays which is currently owned by the Musee National d’Art Moderne in Paris.
The artist was highly inspired by Picasso’s works.
That’s why Joan’s artworks reflect Picasso’s beliefs.
Miro always preached that an artist should apply paints freely on canvas to give wings to their creative thoughts.
This idea can be evidently seen in his artworks as they were painted with the same blue field. For him, blue was a symbol of a world of cosmic dreams.
Joan’s independent style and expression later became his identity.
This abstract painting truly signifies his ideologies as the artist elegantly used sparse, and brush strokes all across the canvas.
He might have entered into this world of art as a landscape painter, however, he made his way as one of the famous abstract painters.
10. Orange, Red, Yellow By Mark Rothko
This is another abstract painting that made its way to the most expensive paintings in the history of abstract art.
Mark’s Orange, Red, Yellow was sold for over $86 million at Christie’s from the estate of David Pincus.
The artist was known for integrating a subtle message on his canvas, which can clearly be witnessed from his arrangement of subjects.
However, this abstract artwork shows his mature style.
The painting depicts three rectangles in dissimilar sizes that are set in the ambiguous background, also surrounding the rectangles.
Basically, the background bifurcates the figures from each other making each figure more impactful.
Mark made this painting by applying thin layers of paints and spreading them with a rag or brush all across the canvas.
He was one of the abstract painters who always worked on ideas that allow viewers to experience all the emotions embodied in colors and shapes.
When it was sold for a whopping $86.9 million, it was listed at a record nominal price for contemporary art post-war.
11. Blue Poles By Jackson Pollock
Did you know? This drip painting was made four years before Jackson’s death.
Jackson’s Blue Poles was first exhibited at Pollock’s solo show at Sidney Janis Gallery, 1952.
Initially, this famous abstract painting was known as Number 11, 1952.
Due to the artist’s preference of assigning numbers instead of letters, most of his masterpieces were recognized by serial numbers.
However, later, he replaced it with letters and the painting came to be known as Blue Poles.
This abstract expression painting was sold amid the controversial environment created by the National Gallery of Australia in 1973.
Since 1973, it has been housed by them as one of the gallery’s major paintings.
12. White On White By Kazimir Malevich
Kazimir’s abstract artwork is the epitome of the Russian Suprematism movement of 1915.
This abstract depicts a tilted white square that has a white square in the background, also surrounding itself.
Abstract painter Kazimir intended to evoke a feeling of floating with one white square slightly tilted to the left, and another white square in the background.
You know it was famous for its exhibition which took place at one of the prominent art exhibitions ‘Grobe Berliner Ausstellung’.
When it comes to its ownership, there were many conflicts. And it had been continued even after Kazimir’s death.
However, in the end, it was acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1935.
Since then it was housed by the Museum of Modern Art, New York after the approval from Kazimir’s estate over the ownership.
13. Full Fathom Five By Jackson Pollock
Jackson created paintings from several genres, however, this was his earliest work in abstract art.
There are nails, tacks, buttons, matches, coins, a torn cigarette, and others on the surface of it.
Many critics tried to decipher its meaning of it.
Most folks agreed on the meaning that says ‘Full Fathom Five’ defines something that completely sunk into despair.
Jackson, who was inspired by prominent poets and other artists created this painting in a unique style
He built the underlayer with aid of a brush and palette knife to perfectly show the details.
Basically, he attempted to bridge his previous projects which needed ease and inspiration from traditional painting techniques.
14. Broadway Boogie Woogie By Piet Mondrian
Unfortunately, Broadway Boogie Woodie was Piet’s last painting.
There are a plethora of squares in mixed colors, including red, yellow, and blue.
This abstract oil paint canvas shows a modern and sparkling vivacity.
And it was sold to Brazilian sculptor Maria Martins for $800 in New York.
However, later, it was exhibited in 1943 and was donated to the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
15. One Number 31, 1950 By Jackson Pollock
One Number 31, is one of three larger-scale drip technique artworks.
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30) and Blue Poles were the larger ones, however, this was Pollock’s most iconic one.
This abstract masterpiece was owned by a private collector until 1968, later, it was sold to the Museum of Modern Art and has been housed since then.
On One Number 31, there is a complex blend of tans, blues, and grays splattered over the canvas.
Jackson used sticks, rigid brushes, and other tools to throw paint independently.
This abstract art defines the surrealist concept of accident replacing human consciousness.
Due to its large size, Jackson kept the canvas on the floor and created this phenomenal drip painting.
16. Interchange By Willem De Kooning
Interchange is the 2nd most expensive painting worth $300 million.
Dutch American painter De Kooning painted it after transitioning from women to abstract urban landscapes.
His works reflected the ideas and style of Franz Kline.
Apart from this, he inspired Kooning to paint with quickly made gestural marks.
This famous abstract painting depicts dominating pink at its center, representing a seated woman.
Did you know? De Kooning belongs to the ones, who first participated in the abstract expression movement.
He supported the movement and created several canvases during the period.
‘Interchange’ was auctioned in a gallery and sold for $4,000 to an American architect Edgar Kaufmann JR.
Later, he sold it to another artist, and from there, it was sold to Japanese art dealer Shigeki Kameyama.
After moving from one museum to another, it was sold to a Hedge Fund manager and billionaire Kenneth C Griffin for $300 million on Sept 15, 2013.
17. White Center (Yellow, Pink, Lavender On Rose) By Mark Rothko
White Center is the first abstract artwork that showcased Rothko’s signature multiform style.
There is a yellow horizontal rectangle at the top, beneath a black horizontal stripe and a white rectangular band, and a lavender-colored rectangle at the bottom.
It was one of the largest canvases painted in the year which required an optimistic choice of colors.
This abstract painting became popular after 2007. Did you know why?
It had set a record for listing the most expensive paintings produced post-war. Mark’s White Center was sold to the Royal Family of Qatar for $72.84 million at an auction
18. Autumn Rhythm By Jackson Pollock
This painting was Jackson’s prominent work from his 1947-52 poured painting style.
Like his other artworks, this painting was also created by keeping the canvas on the floor and splattering colors from cans.
Initially, Jackson titled this painting Number 30. However, he abolished the concept of naming numbers in his artworks. Later, he titled this painting Autumn Rhythm.
It was first exhibited with the ‘Number 30’ title at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1951.
However, when he changed the title and exhibited it at the Sidney Janis Gallery, in 1955, it created its own identity and people had forgotten its previous name thereafter.
It was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1957 that acquired Pollock’s painting from his estate for $20,000. Since then, it has been housed by MOMA, New York.
19. Woman III By Willem De Kooning
This famous abstract painting whose central theme is a woman is actually one of Kooning’s six paintings done between 1951 and 1953.
This was Kooning’s last painting in the series that featured women.
Also, it witnessed backlashes as the painting depicted a naked female character in a puzzled and frightening situation.
However, the artist’s dealer clarified that it was made with the purpose of showing women differently from any female depictions in western art.
Also, he highlighted the painting depicted some particular cruelty that kept happening to women.
In spite of all the controversy, the painting was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in Tehran.
After the 1979 revolution, this abstract oil canvas was sold to business tycoon David Geffen.
Did you know? In November of 2006, this abstract artwork was sold to wealthy Steven A. Cohen, making it the twelfth most expensive painting ever sold.
20. Blue And Green Music By Georgia O’Keeffe
Georgia used subtle and bold colors in order to capture the musical tone one would find in music.
This famous abstract painting was created when Georgia moved to New York with her spouse, where she created a series of paintings of skyscrapers.
Did you know? This abstract artwork became popular because it tried to showcase sound in visuals.
The light colors were applied to represent light musical sounds and the darker ones to represent deeper sounds.
Georgia was always known for her unique concepts and ideas.
For several years, this beautiful abstract oil painting has been housed by The Art Institute of Chicago.
21. No. 61 (Rust And Blue) By Mark Rothko
This famous abstract painting was a part of the Color Field Movement.
Most of his works were infamous for showing religious experiences to viewers.
However, No. 61 (Rust And Blue) was the best example of Mark Rothko’s famous multiform artworks.
Although this abstract art was first exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1961, it has been housed by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.
Hey Art Lovers!
Thanks for reading this article till the end.
I hope you’ve learned about the famous abstract paintings, their history, and interesting facts in this article.
If you feel I had missed adding some more relevant information or any other details, let me know in the comment section.
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