■ Abstract This style uses lines, colours and shapes to distort objects, themes and ideas so that the viewer approaches them in a different way. Abstract master Pablo Picasso’s work fell under this umbrella, but the Spanish artist was also credited with co-founding the early 20th century Cubist movement, where art was dissected and then reassembled.
■ Art nouveau We know it’s French for ‘new art’, but what does that mean? Picture a vintage poster for a French film and you’re halfway there. Art Nouveau also applies to both architecture and design and the style is characterised by the flowing of Italian-style sculptures, flowers, leaves and animals into a symbiotic piece. Charles Rennie Mackintosh was a prominent figure in the movement.
■ Expressionism Ever looked at a painting and felt like you wanted to cry? Much like interpretive dancing – its modern day equivalent – this style is characterised by its ability to evoke emotions, moods and ideas. Expressionism originated in Germany at the turn of the 20th century, and Edvard Munch’s 1893 painting ‘The Scream’ was considered a high point.
■ Figurative If you’re looking at a bare body (on a canvas), then chances are you’ve clapped eyes on figurative art. This term refers to art and sculptures that have strong references to reality, such as the human form or animals. Think Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas.
■ Impressionism Although the title would suggest bigger things, this movement, which originated in the 19th century, is defined by its thin brushstrokes, unambiguous composition and stale subject matter. It’s not a criticism of the artworks themselves, but rather a style of accurately representing light and movement, as seen in this piece by 19th century French artist Claude Monet.
■ Minimalism This relatively recent movement was established in New York in the ’60s and ’70s, and sought to expose the subject by excluding all other superfluous components. American artists Frank Stella and Donald Judd are both significant contributors to the style.
■ Modernism This movement came about in the not-so-modern turn of the 20th century, at a time when artists of the era felt the existing art and ideas no longer related to the industrialised world in which they were now living. Self-consciousness and autonomy are two defining characteristics of the movement, which also involved using works of the past in parody-form. French graphic artist Henri Matisse is one such example.
■ Organic shapes No, not the vegetables. Organic shapes refer to free-form objects on canvas that are non-geometric and are often used to give off a sense of peace and calm. Organic shapes are fluid and natural in form, such as clouds, leaves, plants and animals compared to the hard lines of a triangle, rectangle or square.
■ Realism It is what it is. At least, that’s what realism would have you believe. This form of art was known to depict subjects from a third-person, un-biased perspective. It usually revealed itself in two spheres: depicting nature as it was, colours and all and factually representing the day-to-day lives of people of the era. French painter Gustave Courbet led the movement in the 19th century.
■ Surrealism ‘Woah, what am I looking at?’ ‘Oh, that’s just a leg attached to a face, attached to a clock that is holding an umbrella.’ Conversations like this mostly arise when faced with Surrealism. The movement is known for its element of surprise and unexpected juxtapositions. World famous Spanish artist Salvador Dali was, in layman’s terms, the daddy of this movement.