Basic Art Styles

What is art? Good question. The world of art is full of styles, idioms, eras, movements, genres, epochs, and much more. Every artist is unique and every style is important. But that's just too much to cover right here. Art connoisseurs beware: these categories do not map perfectly to the classifications in textbooks.

We want to boil it all down to six visual styles so that buyers and artists can communicate the visual aspects of a painting.


Realism is the general attempt to depict subjects without embellishment or interpretation. Clean lines, real-world subject matter and authentic colors.


Impressionist work is painted through an artists eye. Visually-based colors, real-world scenes, feathery textures are common. Paint is sometimes applied thick.


Emotionally driven colors and distortions of form are common. More concern is placed on conveying an emotion than making the subject look realistic.


Some real objects, some not. Usually arranged or depicted unnaturally. Irony, metaphors, realistic colors and hallucinations are common subject matter.


Abstraction is identified by distorted, vague, or irregular representations of real objects. Simplified forms and shapes are common. Real and unrealistic colors.


Abstract work involves lines, shapes, and colors that don't depict real objects. Work can be messy, clean, feathery, splattered, spilled, accidental.