announcement

Update: Check new design of our homepage!

Understanding Nonrepresentational Art with Examples

Understanding Nonrepresentational Art with Examples

Nonrepresentational art is one of the forms of figurative art. It reflects the vision of the artist, and is in total contrast to representational art. Let us now understand nonrepresentational art with its examples.
ArtHearty Staff
How it differs?
In abstract art, the familiar-looking real objects are modified into shapes and symbols.
The dictionary meaning of the term nonrepresentational art is not resembling or portraying any object in physical nature.
In the following paragraph, we shall understand the underlying meaning of the aforementioned definition.

Any art that doesn't adhere to representing the objects in their actual form is under the umbrella of nonrepresentational art. It is guided by the principle that art is one's strongest expression of one's feelings, views, and his unique way of perception. Unlike representational art which is the representation of actuality, nonrepresentational art is opposed to it. Nonrepresentational art stands by imagination and creativity. Another characteristic feature that defines this form of art is the abstract nature of it. In this art form, the artist can emote his true feelings and emotions, which perhaps are distant from reality. Nonrepresentational art is not objective. It is governed by expressionism.
This was a brief explanation of the definition of nonrepresentational art.

History of Nonrepresentational Art
Abstract art or nonrepresentational art sprouted in the 19th century. Many painters of that era experimented with the vitalities of painting, such as colors, tone, and visual appeal, which spread the roots of this form of art.
The artists were made aware of artistic freedom, which enabled them to break away from the old norms of depiction of reality in the exact manner.
While talking about abstract art form, it is highly important to mention about the bygone era of Romanticism.

Romanticism began in the later half of the 18th century, and lasted till the 19thcentury. It put forth the vitality of imagination and creativity. These factors were kept at the helm, and were also propagated in literature and art. It opposed Classicism, which portrayed reality.
Abstract art form suffered from lack of notice during the World Wars, when the depiction of stark reality was the first choice of many artists. Abstract art, thus, took a backseat.
In the wake of Impressionism, this art form gained a stronger foothold. This was practiced by a group of artists from Paris whose independent exhibition of paintings earned them laurels as well as criticism.

These painters were amongst the first to have used abstractionism in art, which triggered a new facet of figurative art called nonrepresentational art.


It empowered artists to incorporate the elements of emotion and feelings instead of rigid adherence to reality.
Now, as nonrepresentational art progressed, this was the time when it expressed a new facet of it. This was the time when the world of art experienced abstract expressionism.

It kindled a new thought process, and was now spreading fast. In the US, it garnered a fresh perspective for artists.


It began in the 1940s in the US, and brought to the fore what was thought to be grossly unacceptable.

The list of nonrepresentational artists is rather long. However, to mention a famous few, we enlist them as under:
  • Paul C├ęzanne (1839 - 1906)
  • Piet Mondrian (1872 - 1944)
  • Paul Klee (1879 - 1940)
  • Paul Nash (1889 - 1946)
  • William Scott (1913 - 1989)
  • Man Ray (1890 - 1976)
  • Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973)
  • Kazimir Malevich (1878 - 1935)
  • Wassily Kandinsky (1866 - 1944)
  • Helen Frankenthaler (1928 - 2011)
Characteristics of Nonrepresentational Art
Nonrepresentational art depicts the real object in an unrealistic way. It uses symbols and depicts the objects in a way, that it doesn't bear much resemblance with the actual portrayal.
Abstract art usually doesn't contain any specific design or depiction. It contains the artist's conception and perception. So, if two different artists are painting a nonrepresentational painting of an object, the likelihood is that both of them will create varying depictions of the same object in their paintings, respectively.
Nonrepresentational art doesn't have a defined outline of the subject. It shows the subject with the use of colors, lines, and forms.

It distorts the features of the object in such a way that it doesn't resemble the object, but also makes it possible for the viewer to recognize it.


Nonrepresentational art is high in imagination and creative expression, unlike representational art that focuses mainly on accuracy and exact depiction.
Types of Abstract Art
Abstract art is categorized broadly into two distinct groups. They are named as objective abstract art and non-objective abstract art. Let's know about them further.
Objective Abstract Art
Objective art is also a type of abstract art, where the elements are not influenced by the natural appearance of the objects, but rather they are presented in a distorted or exaggerated way, though identifiable by the viewer. It has an indirect reference of what the artist has referred to as an inspiration.
Non-objective Abstract Art
This art form is totally aloof from the natural world. It doesn't have any influence from the natural appearance of objects. It doesn't have figurative reference. It is solely based on geometric imagery. It is also known as concrete art. It values geometric accuracy rather than apparent appearance of the object. It is a collection of unidentifiable shapes, brush strokes, colors, structure, shapes, and patterns. In short, it totally defies objective depiction of elements. It doesn't imitate nature and its elements, though it could be inspired from the same.
Nonrepresentational art has not been taken in a positive light by many. However, people who truly understand the depth of it and can understand the meanings associated with it, value this art form greatly. Though representational art was the first form of art that was practiced since the beginning of art and culture, nonrepresentational art, after it gained momentum and exposure, found ample prominence.