Abstract Portraits: History & Problems & Obstacles of Making Abstract Face Paintings

Abstract Portraits: History

Abstract art arose from the desire of artists to create works that are not related to reality and are not limited to visual references. Most of the twentieth century’s most iconic and famous abstract paintings of faces were created by artists who sought and found new ways to create art that would capture the fundamental changes taking place in technology, science, and philosophy in the West.

The name of the genre evokes the idea of ​​isolation or abstraction from something and was chosen to celebrate the desire of the first abstract portraiture artists. Free your works from the constraints of reality and portray the imaginary in art. Abstract paintings come in a wide variety of forms and can be partly related to existing visual cues or represent a complete deviation from an accurate representation of reality. This versatile art genre uses colors, shapes, and gestures to achieve a unique aesthetic and, in many cases, a deep emotional response from viewers.

Solving special problems, abstract self-portrait exists in a world between high representativity and high symbolism. Two phenomena that best describe the nature of abstract portraits are the ability to see faces everywhere, known as pareidolia, and the ability to imprint values ​​and emotions on a person’s face, known as empathy. These two describe the endpoints on a long line that defines this form of creativity. Unlike the arena of hyperrealistic portraiture and imagery, which attempts to demonstrate similarities between sitters and subject matter, abstract portraits leave the door for the audience’s personal interpretation and reflection very open.

What Defines the Nature of Abstract Portrait Photography?

What Defines the Nature of Abstract Portrait Photography

In the 16th century, Italian painters and sculptors defined one of the most important artistic canons, against which the avant-garde and famous abstract portrait artists managed to revolt. These two destroyed the idea of ​​a hierarchy of objects that the masters of the past defined. Placing historical scenes, including both historical paintings and mythological, often allegorical, images as the most respectable subject matter, the masters placed portraiture as the second most valuable form of art.

In the classical sense, this type of artistic production was usually defined as a highly realistic depiction of a person, most often depicted from head to mid-body. Typically, images should reflect the sitter’s status, his / her nobility and position in society, and in extreme cases, the ideas of magic in art. Apart from abstract face painting, portraiture also included the entire human body and even mythological figures, spiritual or fictional characters, and animals.

In contrast to such ideas, the abstract portrait had to combine the two abilities in order to get its definition.

  • First, he had to use the concept of portraiture in some way.
  • And secondly, he had to be an example of abstract art.

Thus, the painting must deal with the realm of ideas, or at least avoid a purely objective or representative approach to reality. In many artistic disciplines, abstract portraits can be painting and drawing, but also photography, sculpture, installation, or even performance, which symbolically encompasses the qualities of the authors or sitters or defining trademarks.

Although elements of abstract art can be traced back to the 19th century and the work of renowned abstract portrait artists such as Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, or in particular in James McNeill Whistler’s Nocturne in Black and Gold: A Falling Rocket, most theorists agree. That 1910 marks the birth of abstract art faces. It was then that Wassily Kandinsky painted his famous Untitled (First Abstract Watercolor), the first and one of the most famous abstract paintings ever created.

Abstract painting has come a long way since 1910 and has established itself as a versatile field for experimentation and the development of new styles and techniques. Helen Frankenthaler’s soak and stain paintings, Jackson Pollock’s innovative drip technique, or not just Pierre Soulages’ black practice are all different but complementary. Each other part of the abstract painting genre, which was a real gift to art and had a profound influence on many of the artists who followed it.

Challenges and Obstacles Abstract Self-Portrait Photography

In terms of interpretation, what can be the most difficult, and sometimes the most controversial, about abstract portraits is that they are inherently personal. Demanding a deeper and deeper contemplation from the public, abstract portraits are more difficult to define than other forms of unrepresentative depictions of reality.

Compared to geometric abstraction or monochromatic paintings, which can be analyzed and interpreted solely according to formal qualities, ideas of rhythm in art, or symbolism of visual language, the lack of representation in relation to the human form encourages the viewer to also reflect on their own identity and personal points of view.

In addition to the fact that in order to try to master the hidden messages that are stored in such works of art, one must turn to oneself, such images also reflect the thoughts of the artist who created them. Depending on the choice of color, the application of paint, or the inclusion of various symbols, the relationship between the work and its artist could also be read “between the lines.”

Top 5 Contemporary Abstract Portrait Paintings



Appearance here is associated with “essence” in a masterfully eloquent form of visual poetics, which, as Richard Verdi noted, “could only arise from the mind of an artist deeply immersed in the work of nature – someone who, only a year later, gave the following advice to a teacher of a group of young students – artists: “When they are ready to move to the highest, lead your students to nature – to nature. Make them feel how a bud is formed, how a tree grows, how a butterfly unfolds so that they can become as resourceful, flexible, and original as the great nature. A glance is a revelation, it is the comprehension of the workshop of God.

Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust

Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust

Nude, green leaves, and bust, a sensual and stunning masterpiece from Picasso’s famous 1932 abstract faces artwork series, depicting his muse and lover Marie-Theresa Walther.

Female Samurai Warrior

Female Samurai Warrior

Abstract paintings are fictional models because they visualize a reality that we can neither see nor describe, but which can nevertheless conclude that it exists. We assign negative names to this reality; the unknown, the incomprehensible, the infinite, and for thousands of years we have depicted it in the form of substitute images of living heaven and hell, gods and devils. With abstract painting, we create the best way to approach what cannot be seen or understood. Widely known for its mysterious and timeless beauty, one of the most famous paintings of female warriors ever made, Samurai Woman (2017), presents a non-representational self-portrait against a backdrop of constant danger.

De Kooning’s Women

De Kooning’s Women

A similar phenomenon occurs when people look at the abstract portraits of women painted by Willem de Kooning. When de Kooning’s other abstract paintings are discussed, the most frequently mentioned are the qualities of their gestures, their vibrant energy, their distinct brush marks, their distinctive palette, and the tension and passion conveyed through their expressive compositions. His purely abstract compositions are called complex, intricate and powerful. His abstract landscapes are called sublime.

Head of Jym

Head of Jym

In terms of interpretation, what can be the most difficult, and sometimes the most controversial, about abstract portraits is that they are inherently personal. Social constructivism posits that everything we understand about life comes from our experience and that all our instructive experience comes from social interactions.

The complexity of the individual nature of abstract portraits is that they invite thought much deeper and deeper than what could be suggested by other forms of abstract art.

For example, an abstract geometric sculpture or a completely abstract composition, such as a color field painting or monochrome, can only be interacted with in accordance with its formal qualities, or its symbolic qualities, or interpretive or contemplative qualities. But in addition to all these elements, abstract portraits also make viewers interact with themselves.

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