The art field has had a complex history, with many art movements changing and emerging in new timelines.  There are more than a hundred art movements out there that evolved over time, of which only a few have managed to dominate the common man’s narrative of art. The reason being historians have time and again chosen to see art history with linear lenses, overlooking the movements that emerged independently or belonged to nonconformist cultural and political institutions. For every painting of Cubism, Impressionism, and Surrealism, we know of like the back of our hand, there are many Vorticist, Rayonist, and Stridentist art movements which do not ring a bell with us, but definitely should.

Here is a list of some lesser-known art movements that had existed or still exist in the world.

10 Art movements you did not know about
Négritude Art Movement ‘Death and the Conquistador’, 1959 ©The estate of Aubrey Williams

 

1. MADI

Dating back to the 1940s the movement is dedicated to promoting the abstraction of geometric and irregular shapes. Unrestricted by the boundaries of a canvas, the objects in the paintings are not symbolic but have an emotional and ideative undercurrent to them.  The Art style focuses on the non-figurative articulation of space, movement, and colors than the object representation. 

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‘Cardinal’ by Carmelo Arden Quin; ©www.artandseek.org
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Painting by Carmelo Arden Quin; ©www.alchetron.com

2. THE INCOHERENTS

Started as an art form to entertain the public, The Incoherents featured artworks of people with unbridled imagination and a modicum of painterly skills. This light-hearted and humoristic art movement scrutinized the art and morals of their period through the medium of anticlerical satire, parodies of famous paintings, caricatures, and graphical puns.

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Poster art; © Wikimedia Commons
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The ‘Incoherents’; © Wikimedia Commons

3. TACHISME

This mid-twentieth-century art movement had a lot of visual characteristics in common with Abstract Expressionism. The artists of this movement adopted intuition and spontaneity in their brushstrokes as a form of self-expression, abandoning the widely used style of geometric abstraction. The absence of distinct material components is compensated by the dynamic and free-flowing brushstrokes that characterize the lyrical and abstract compositions. 

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Oil paint on canvas ‘People, Birds and Sun’; ©Karel Appel Foundation
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Paul Jenkins’s ‘Phenomena Sanctuary’; ©Hollis Taggart Galleries

4. MANNERISM

This art movement of the 1520s gave a stylized twist to the art principles established during the Renaissance. The pursuit of self-expressionism over idealism resulted in a work that featured exaggerated forms, elaborate decorations, and bizarre lighting. The artists favored complexity and virtuosity in their works over the harmony and ideal proportions seen in Renaissance arts. The artificial setting in the paintings caused nervousness and unease in the observer.

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Joachim Wtewael, “Perseus and Andromeda,” 1611; ©Wikimedia Common
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Portrait of Eleanor of Toledo; ©www.nga.gov

5. NEGRITUDE

This literary and art movement emerged in Paris in the 1930s as a response to the alienated position of Blacks in history. The movement aimed to defy the racial prejudices held against African art and underline the contributions it could make to the global art scene. Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and surrealism, it critiqued imperialism and imperial art, to avert a new world avant-garde. 

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Wilfredo Lam ‘The Jungle’; ©Wikiart
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Wifredo Lam – ‘The Wedding’, 1947; ©Dmitry Sakharov via Flickr

6. THE BENGAL SCHOOL OF ART

The art movement sought to establish a modern Indian art style as a reaction to the colonial influence on Indian art. The movement drew inspiration from art forms spread across the Asian continent. The mystical dream-like paintings made using indigenous materials and a limited color palette featured landscapes, historical themes, and portraits, as well as scenes from rural life. 

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‘Bharat Mata’ by Abanindranath Tagore, 1905; © www.swadesi.com
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‘Love Messenger’ by Gaganendranath Tagore; ©indiapicks.com

7. LOWBROW

Also known as Pop Surrealism, this underground visual art movement picked up inspiration from classic cartoons, street art, anime, psychedelic rock scenes, and underground comix. The sense of humor in the abstract imagery and dreamy cartoon characters had a hint of sarcasm. The art movement aimed to poke fun of the conventional art rules, by consciously not following them. 

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Fables cover by James Jean; © owlcation.com
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Joe Coleman – Joe’s Circus, 1991; ©www.widewalls.ch

8. ASHCAN SCHOOL

The movement documented American culture at a time it was undergoing a transition. The paintings portrayed the ordinary aspects of New York city life. The artists opted to portray a realistic perspective of the seamy side of the metropolis than focussing on idealized beauty. The dark palette and gestural brushwork in the paintings sought to display journalism-like unfiltered and harsh realities of life.

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John Sloan – ‘McSorley’s Bar’, 1912; ©Wikimedia
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John Sloan – ‘Dust Storm, Fifth Avenue’, 1906; ©www.metmuseum.org

9. GUTAI GROUP

The oeuvre of this post-war radical art movement of Japan included paintings, performances, sculptures, and installations. To create art as no one had done before, the movement provided artistic freedom to use a wide array of materials to work with, from paint to tar, mud, glue, and newspaper to water. Kazuo Shiraga, who was a predominant force of this movement, is exemplary of the vibrant spirit of the artists involved in Gutai. He would suspend himself over the canvas, painting with his feet while the audience watched him perform live. 

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Kazuo Shiraga’s Feet painting; © medium.com/
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Kazuo Shiraga – Challenging Mud, 1955; ©www.widewalls.ch

10. QUITO SCHOOL

This Spanish art movement focused on Catholic religious paintings and sculptures. It featured a unique blend of European and indigenous elements. The use of distinct European flesh-color, glass, hair, false eyelashes and nails gave the sculptures an eerily realistic look. The artists opted to portray local scenes, flora, and fauna instead of the conventional European iconography.

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‘Winged Virgin of the Apocalypse’ by Miguel de Santiago; ©Wikimedia
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‘Portrait of a Quito Matron Lady with Her Black Slave’ by Vicente Albán; ©Wikimedia
Author

Idea girl & strong-minded, Kiran is an architecture enthusiast & sucker for words. When not reading, she can be found gorging movies & sitcom.

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