At the dawn of the 20th century, new art forms emerged as artists began to explore abstract means of expression. They responded to world events such as wars, industrialization and movement away from the ornate aesthetic of the Victorian Age. Artists experimented with fundamental elements such as color and simple geometric shapes, and the resulting works have created a lasting legacy of famous art.
The work of Spanish artist Joan Miro includes whimsical paintings such as “The Garden” and his revered “Constellation Series.” In “The Garden,” Miro depicts three abstract birds perching among plants that have dominant circular elements. Miro subdivides the birds and plants into triangles and rectangles, with each segment a different color. The Constellation Series includes a painting called “The Beautiful Bird Revealing the Unknown to a Pair of Lovers.” Small black circles, squares and triangles connect with intricately meandering black lines, as though connecting the stars of a constellation. Only a few segments of the intersecting shapes have color. The elements create a large smiling face, a profile and several small birds.
Frank Lloyd Wright Windows and Furniture
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, famous for his Prairie architecture, used geometric shapes in stained glass windows, dinnerware, fabrics, lamps and furniture. Wright’s barrel chairs have round seats with wraparound arms that join the barrel-shaped backs made of closely-spaced vertical spindles. Wright’s windows include the “Tree of Life” windows with long vertical lines that lead upward to chevrons and squares that suggest autumn leaves. In the Coonley triptych windows, Wright used the inspiration of primary-colored parade balloons and confetti to create tall vertical rectangles leading to clusters of small squares and large floating circles of color. In all, Wright designed more than 4,000 art glass windows.
Housed in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Piet Mondrian’s classic “Broadway Boogie Woogie” depicts a yellow and white grid that evokes the intersected streets of New York City. Mondrian used only red, yellow and blue on a white ground. The yellow “streets” have small blocks of the other colors placed at random intervals, and the streets themselves have random spacing between them. Blocks that could depict buildings and bridges connect some of the streets. Although the basic structure of the painting starts with vertical and horizontal lines that divide the painting into four equal quadrants, the placement of the other elements creates rhythm, movement and excitement.
Among the many geometric drawings, paintings and lithographs of Russian artist Vasily Kandinsky, the lithograph “Orange” and the painting “Soft Pressure” represent the look and feel of the artist’s abstract works. The dynamic “Orange” depicts two oblique elongated triangles piercing a circle, with other geometric shapes that seem to explode outward. A black checkerboard grid in the upper left corner provides a counterpoint in this composition. “Soft Pressure” has a serene feeling, with a blue ground and a large yellow rectangle that anchors an assemblage of brightly-colored circles punctuated with a square and long narrow rectangles.
- “Fifty Favorite Furnishings by Frank Lloyd Wright;” Diane Maddex; 1999
- Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation: Wright’s Life + Work
- Joan Miro: Joan Miro Paintings
- Museum of Modern Art: Broadway Boogie Woogie
- Paintings: Piet Mondrian Biography
- Museum of Modern Art: Vasily Kandinsky, Orange
- Stephen Chernin/Getty Images News/Getty Images