What Was the First Abstract Artwork? - Caroline Ashwood

July 23, 2021

Are you a fan of abstract art? Have you ever wondered what was the first abstract artwork? It sometimes feels like new ideas and techniques just emerge fully realised from the ether, and although that is not, in actual fact the case, the reality may not be too far away either.

abstract art

When most new ideas come to us humans, they tend to come to several of us at once, so it is often hard to say who was the first. This is what Wassily Kandinsky’s widow found when she tried to determine what was the first example of abstract art way back in 1946.

Her husband, the famous Russian painter, was certainly one of the trailblazers in the world of abstract art, but was he the first? He certainly thought so when he wrote to his gallerist in New York to insist that was the case, but several other abstract artists were also under the same impression that they were the first, so who was right? Robert Delaunay? Kazimir Malevich? Natalia Goncharova? Mikhail Larionov. Maybe? 


kazimir malevich

Backdating work to steal the title

The fact of the matter is we don’t really know, and many of the most prominent abstract artists were guilty of backdating their works to try and steal the title. What we do know, however, is that Kandinsky’s Komposition V was responsible for the attention and interest in abstract art that began when, in 1911, it was exhibited in Munich, so maybe, just maybe, he rightly deserves his acclaim as the father of abstract art, regardless.

The Mother of Abstract Art

There is no doubt as to who is the the mother of abstract art, because female Swedish artist Hilma af Klint predates Kandinsky by just a few years, and experts regard her work as true abstract. Born in 1862, she was a recluse who was engrossed in a burgeon Theosophical movement spearheaded by self proclaimed mystic, one Madame Blavatsky. Thus, it was much later that she received recognition. By which time, Kandinsky and others were getting the lime light.
Hilma Af Klint

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