There are at least as many kinds of painting as there are painters – probably more. Nevertheless, painters do tend to fall into a few different schools. Painting has evolved from an art form that attempted to portray views accurately. Painting now tries to do something the camera cannot do -- to depict the meaning of a view or the emotional impact of a view, or even the underlying geometry of a view. As in many human endeavors, these schools tend to gather around strong and successful personalities.
Abstract art is not representational. It does not attempt to depict real objects. Abstract art consists of patterns and blocks of colors. It can also take on surprising forms such as the paintings of Jackson Pollock – also known as “Jack the Dripper” – whose work consist of paint dripped onto the canvas. Other stars of abstract art are Sonia Delaunay and Pam Sanders.
Cubism is not just about cubes; some famous early examples that provoked the name were predominately cubes. Cubism emphases the under lying simple geometric shapes in more complex objects – primarily in the human body. This kind of painting has roots in the basic art school technique of breaking up complex forms into combinations of simple geometric shapes. The more famous practitioner is Pablo Picasso, but it can also be seen in the works of Marc Chagall and Georges Braque.
Expressionist works are more concerned with evoking an emotional response from the viewer than in depicting reality or the structure of what is being painted. The archetypical expressionist painting is “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. Distorting the sky so it reflects the emotional state of the principal character is typical of expressionism. The artist is more concerned with how the viewer feels about the object, rather than what it looks like. Other famous expressionists include Wassily Kandinsky and Ludwig Kirchner.
Impressionism attempts to capture the essence of a scene without a lot of detail. It is characterizes by short, thin brushstrokes and a lack of detail. Impressionism has influenced other arts such as music and literature. One example is Claude Debussy’s composition “The Sea,” which evokes an impression of the sea through musical notes. Famous impressionist painters include Claude Monet and Pierre Renoir
Surrealism blends objects with their symbols in a dreamlike manner that reveals an underlying meaning. For example; a melting clock may symbolize the fluid nature of time, as we perceive it. The archetypical surrealist is Salvador Dali. Other famous practitioners are Henri Rousseau and Max Ernst.