Most Popular Painting Styles – 6+ Styles

Painting is among the most common forms of visual arts. It is everywhere. It is nothing out of the ordinary to find one from the confines of museums to the walls and roads on the streets to the ceilings of historical halls. 

It has been a part of the history of the arts. They had long been in existence before they had been even called “paintings,” tracing back to a thousand years ago when a streamlined timeline of painting as an art of itself began, mostly from a Western perspective. 

The impact of Western culture on this had been pervasive. It is so that when we hear the word itself, we instinctively associate it with the prosperous European periods, such as Renaissance and Romanticism, to name two. 

Painting styles do not veer far from the periods when they had been born. Listed ahead are the styles of painting based on the time that had been carried out and expressed. Like today, the artists back then heavily relied on the current trend to agree on or not. It was their reference point for creating their pieces of art. 

Realism

Realism, as a painting style, paints images as real as possible from the namesake of reality. It’s free from any embellishments. Accuracy is its most defining attribute, and it doesn’t leave any room for imagination and modification. What you see is what you paint. The artist’s craftsmanship is measured based on his ability to paint an image that’s as real as possible, close to a photograph. Unless an individual inspects carefully, brushstrokes are not apparent.

Painterly

I am stepping away from realism, where the realistic depiction is paramount, painterly highlights the painting as an art form. 

It doesn’t shy away from showing off that paint is the medium that was used. 

Brushstrokes and colors are prominent that the work of art can’t be obscured as a painting. Despite that, the subjects remain true to their form. They maintain their shapes and shades.

Impressionism

Have you ever come across a painting that looks like it’s a collection of tiny, yet evident brushstrokes? If you have, then you had spotted an impressionist painting. The emphasis here is on the light. 

The light is depicted as an indicator of the passing of time. Hence, drastic changes in shade are common. Pigments are layered, intense, and vibrant. It is then that the artist’s longing and memory of the time that gives meaning to the painting.

Expressionism

Expressionism is often touted as the successor of impressionism. It deviates from all its predecessor as it didn’t hold back in putting importance on artistic preference. 

The painters are bold enough to simplify their subjects into their basic shape forms and exaggerate them from there. Rules are dismissed. There were no specific rules for applying brush strokes. Painters always held liberty on how to put pigments on the canvas. Natural colors were avoided. 

Abstract

In the basic sense, an abstract style reduces the subject in its basic form. It does so to convey a message that is not easily identifiable based on the paintings’ outward appearances. It can look vague despite its uncomplicated materialization. It represents a meaning that encourages an audience’s interpretation. The shapes and shades are the cornerstones of artists’ emotions. None in it is concrete. The objects are not, as it leaves spacious legroom for reading.

Surrealism

As a style, surrealism often overlaps with abstract and expressionism, mainly because it depicts images unrealistically.

Like the two, it ferries a message through an unclear and imaginative use of shapes and colors. Unlike the abstract, the forms are not reduced. On the other hand, they are deliberately distorted to evoke fantasy and strangeness. 

In the same vein, it becomes similar to expressionism. Where the two become apart, however, is in their contexts. Surrealists explore their imagination and possibilities of seeing—Expressionists probes into their emotions. 

Modernism

Modernism breaks away from any established rules, principles, and practices held before by any of its predecessors.

It featured subjects that are part of modern society. Under its hood, photorealism and pop art are often cited. 

Photorealism is an artist’s attempt to translate a photograph into a different medium, painting in this case. On the other end of the stick, pop art paintings were heavily rooted in popular culture. These styles can be identified more based on their contexts than their physical characteristics. 

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