Whether you are an art collector or a passionate art lover, American art will awaken your hidden artistic talents. From the famous fine art paintings to unusual sculptures, American art is characterized by various movements.
This American Art Movement guide explains the top 10 art movement styles along with amazing examples of famous artists. Keep reading for the most interesting types of art that have marked the world not only in the United States but globally.
What is American Art Movement?
America has always had a rich history of art and culture. For example, centuries ago, Native American art was reflected in crafted ritual objects and an emphatic relation to nature. After European colonizers, American artists began to use European techniques in art. They began to search the European way of making portraits and landscapes to represent their own artworks. Through the centuries, their art movement has developed, bringing different kinds of styles and techniques. Today, America’s global art scene is made of a wide range of art styles. Thes styles can be found in numerous museums across the country.
The American Art Movement produced so many beautiful styles that are innovative, restless, bold or even odd. This guide brings you the most famous and interesting types of art throughout history.
American Art: Art Nouveau
A sentence that best describes this kind of style is one by Gustave Klimt: ‘Art is a line around your thoughts’. Many elegant artworks emerged from a style characterized by geometric and organic forms. This also includes asymmetrical lines. In addition to influencing sculptures and paintings, it also achieved the largest manifestation in the field of architecture and graphic art.
The time of Art Nouveau lasted from 1890 – 1905. Some of the famous work created in this type of American Art Movement is ‘The Kiss’ by Gustave Klimt that can be found in Vienna’s Upper Belvedere Palace. Aubrey Beardsley created an illustration for Oscar Wilde’s play Salome named ‘The Peacock Skirt’.
Fun Fact: This decorative style is also known by the names ‘Glasgow Style’ and ‘Jugendstil’.
American Art: Art Deco
Another type of art that has emerged across a wide range of artistic fields is Art Deco. It can be found in architecture, sculptures, paintings, graphic and decorative arts. Symmetrical, simple and geometric lines characterize this type of American art. Always pleasing to the eye, Art Deco tries to infuse functional objects with a soft, artistic touch.
The time of Art Deco lasted from 1900 – 1945. The best examples of this style are the glass sculpture ‘Victoire’ created by Rene Lalique and the Egyptian chiming clock created by the famous Louis Cartier. Today, the Egyptian clock is a part of a private collection. Also, Victoire (Spirit of the Wind) is a car mascot.
Fun Fact: Art Deco originated in Paris
American Art: Abstract Photography
The first abstract photographers showed that cameras were not required to take photos. They exposed objects and used photosensitive paper with natural light. The results were surreal long-distance images and close-up photographs. Everyday motifs from nature or architectural patterns have become abstract compositional motifs. Abstract photography puts the focus on irregular forms that can be created by presenting familiar things in new ways.
Paul Strand with his ‘Porch Shadows’ and Christian Schad with his Schadograph are the most famous abstract photographers. Both photographs can be seen at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), situated in New York. The art of abstract photography first started in 1916 and is still of interest to many today.
Fun Fact: Abstract photography is popular even nowadays and can be found in art magazines
American Art: Cubism
Probably the most famous Cubist painter among American artists is Pablo Picasso. His artwork ‘Les Demoiselles d’Avignon’ best describes this type of American art style. By using geometric planes and forms, Picasso changed the conventions of different types of art. He reinvented traditional subjects as landscapes, still life, nudes, etc.
Cubism was at its peak from 1907 – 1922. Besides Picasso’s ‘Les Demoiselles’ who can be found in New York’s MoMA, the Chicago Art Museum holds another iconic example of early Cubism. A portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler created by Pablo Picasso is a real work of art.
Fun Fact: This is one of the most revolutionary American art movements
American Art: Expressionism
Expressionism is a famous international artistic movement that influenced not only art but also literature, architecture, and performances. It was strongly felt in Austria and Germany as a result of the anxieties of the modern world. It had a lack of spirituality and lost feelings of authenticity.
Expressionists like Vincent Van Gogh and Edvard Munch use strong, vivid colors to emphasize their worries and yearnings. A dynamic application of those colors shows their inner state of mind and distorted ideas. Consequently, they wanted to emphasize the importance of emotional experience over physical reality.
You can find Munch ‘The Scream’ in Oslo’s National Museum. However, Van Gogh’s famous self-portrait with the bandaged ear is a part of a private collection. American expressionism was from 1905-1933 and is now in art and history museums.
Fun Fact: Franz Kafka, James Joyce, and Strindberg are some of the literature’s expressionists
American Art: Dada Or Dadaism
Dadaism is an artistic movement that was created during the First World War. It was to be a mocking and negative response to the then values. It strongly mocked nationalistic attitudes, conventional social values, and traditional art practices. Furthermore, Dada artists were part of the protest movement. Their main goal when creating art was to shock people into self-awareness; strongly felt in photography, poetry, collage, paintings, and sculptures.
The period that American Dadaism was at its highest in popularity was between 1916 – 1924.
Jean Hans Arp, inspired by Dadaism, created a collage called ‘Untitled’. You can find it in New York’s MoMA. However, probably the most popular work of the Dada movement outside America is the one in Rotterdam’s Museum; Bojimans Van Beuningen. Additionally, Marcel Duchamp used a cheap postcard of Mona Lisa, transformed it by drawing mustache, and named it ‘LHOOQ’. Also, a real rebellion toward traditional art!
Fun Fact: Dada artists were known for the usage of everyday objects. These objects could be presented as art with minimalistic effort.
American Art: Surrealism
The next American art movement style was deeply influenced by psychoanalysis and Karl Marx. Surrealists believed that the rational mind stifles the power of imagination while burdening it with various taboos. They also advocated the idea that many explanations could be found on the street and in everyday life.
The work of surrealism is full of myths, unconscious sings hidden among the lines of their art. However, nature was the most frequent motif. The years in which American Surrealism was famous was the time between 1924 – 1966.
Some of the most famous surrealistic artists are Salvador Dali with his recognizable painting ‘The Persistence of Memory’; and Max Ernst with his oil on canvas called ‘Celebes’. If you want to see them live, head to the Museum of Art in New York; then to London’s Tate Gallery.
Fun Fact: Max Ernst was obsessed with birds. This then led him to have a bird alter ego.
American Art: Conceptual Art (Conceptualism)
Conceptualism is the American Art Movement marked by the importance of the idea over visual art itself. It manifested in many forms, events, and performances. It’s interesting how conceptual artists created artworks that rejected standard ideas of art. They have also reduced the material presented to a minimum. So, this type of art is characterized by simplicity and minimalism.
Robert Rauschenberg and Joseph Kosuth are some of the representatives of this American Art. Also, Kosuth’s interesting work ‘One and Three Chair’ can be found in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. On the other hand, you can find ‘Erased de Kooning Drawing’ by Rauschenberg in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art.
Conceptual art or the art of conceptualism in American art started in the mid-1960s.
Fun Fact: Conceptualism creates art because of art and pushes its limits by using text or minimal materials
American Art: Installation Art
This cool type of art movement is characterized by mixed-media constructions. It includes large-scales created for specific locations. With its three-dimensional space artwork, Installation art often invites the audience for active engagement. It also tries to create a strong intimacy on a personal, conceptual, architectural or social level. As it tries to evoke emotion or a feeling, the quality of its medium is not so important.
Installation art in the United States first started during the 1970s.
Great examples are the icon of Feminist art ‘The Dinner Party’ by Judy Chicago and ‘The Matter of Time’ created by Richard Serra. Today, Chicago’s installation is hosted in the Brooklyn Museum. Serra’s work in the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum. Another fabulous installation artist is Nam June Paik and his superb ‘Electronic Superhighway’. To see this work of art, head to the Smithsonian Art Museum.
Fun Fact: Installation art is difficult to sell, so traditional mechanisms of valuating the art are questioned
American Art: Pop Art
Pop art is a fun and optimistic American art movement. Celebrating the people of everyday life, it started with New York artists Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and James Rosenquist. They also found their inspiration in popular imagery and different products from commercial culture. Large silkscreens, soft pop art sculptures, and enormous billboards are popular forms of this art. You can also find it in an art journal or numerous art magazines. It is a real American dream.
Also, the period that American pop art was the most popular was during the mid-1950s – late 1970s.
Fun Fact: Pop artists believe everything is connected – nature, soul, environment, and art.
What do you think about the American Art Movement styles? Do you have a favorite one? Let us know in the comments below.