Originally published in 1936, in this classic account of the development of abstract art Alfred Barr analyses the many diverse abstract movements which emerged with bewildering rapidity in the early years of the twentieth century, and which had an impact on every major form of art.
Barr traces the history of nonrepresentational art from its antecedents in late nineteenth-century painting in France – Seurat and Neo-Impressionism, Gauguin and Synthetism, and Cézanne – through abstract tendencies in Dada and Surrealism. He distinguishes two main trends in abstract art: the geometrical, structural current as it developed in Cubism and later in Constructivism and Mondrian, and the intuitional, decorative current running from Matisse and Fauvism through Kandinskt and, later, Surrealism. He shows how individual movements influenced one another, and how many artists experimented with more than one style. Barr also discusses the involvement of a number of abstract movements in architecture and the practical arts – the Bauhaus in Germany, de Stijl in Holland, Purism in France, and Suprematism and Constructivism in Russia.