Know Your Art Painting Styles: 7 Most Popular

Part of the appreciation of fine art is the range of art painting styles to admire and choose from. As a fan of art, you will enjoy the experience more when you understand which particular art style you happen to be viewing at the moment. Here is an overview of the seven most popular art painting styles in no specific order.

Popular Art Painting Styles

Art Painting Styles
Realism art

1. Realism is a style of art most people consider to be “real art.” This is because it attempts to depict the topic as it appears in real life but stops short of appearing like a photograph. Realism art is without stylization or following the rules of formal artistic theory. Instead, the artist spends a fair amount of time and effort paying attention to creating an accurate depiction of life forms and objects, perspective (creating the illusion of reality,) good composition, lights and darks, and color and tone.

photorealism art painting style
Photorealism Art

2. Photorealism (a.k.a. super-realism, sharp focus realism, hyperrealism) is an art style where the artwork looks as realistic as a photo. The illusion of reality is so minutely fine-tuned that the painting looks exactly like a large, sharply focused photograph on canvas or other paint support. It’s a look that includes meticulous attention to detail, right down to the last grain of sand on the beach or the pores and wrinkles on a person’s face. Nothing is left out, and nothing is too insignificant to be left out of the composition. That’s how realistic photorealism is.

Photorealism as a style of art became a movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s America. For more information on this art movement, click here.

painterly art painting styles
Painterly Art Style

3. Painterly art is distinguished by visible brushstrokes and texture in the paint. This style can be created using oils, acrylics, watercolors, gouache, and any other medium where a brush is used.

In the past, early painters took great pains to eliminate brushstrokes or texture from their paintings by working and blending their paint, not so with painterly artists. However, they do not attempt to hide their brushwork that has been loosely and quickly applied. The paint doesn’t have to be applied thickly either; thin layers of paint work just as well using the painterly art style.

Impressionism art painting styles
Impressionism Painting

4. Impressionism is a style of painting that has the appearance of being rough and unfinished and is characterized by small, thin visible brushstrokes. The subject matter is usually common and ordinary subjects, emphasizing the accurate depiction of light.

Impressionistic paintings are often painted outdoors to capture the natural sunlight and color of their subjects. Black is rarely used since impressionist artists prefer mixing and using dark tones and complementary colors. Impressionism is more a representation of an artist’s impression. It does not try to be accurate in its detail, but rather, it is more like an expression of the heart.

example of abstract art
Abstract Art

5. Abstract art is artwork that doesn’t resemble anything from “real life.” It’s an art style that is intentionally non-representational and seeks to achieve its point or subject using shapes, forms, colors, and textures. Every object on the canvas is represented by either colors or shapes. For example, colors can represent emotions, and shapes can symbolize objects.

The purpose of an abstract is to let the viewer interpret its meaning for themself. At its worst, abstract art looks like an accidental mess of paint. At its best, it has an impact that strikes you from the moment you see it.

example of surrealism
Surrealism art

6. Surrealism is a modern art style that juxtaposes various abstract concepts to give a startling effect. Fully recognized images are realistically painted, then reconstructed or structured within an ambiguous, contradictory, or shocking framework, removed from their usual settings and circumstances. Surrealist paintings are often illogical and express imaginative dreams with visions that emphasize the subconscious rather than rationale.

Surrealism originated in France and flourished as an art movement in the early twentieth century. For more information about the surrealist movement, click here.

example of pop art
Pop Art

7. Pop Art is a modern art style that started back in the 1950s and drew inspiration from commercial and consumer aspects of everyday life, especially in the American culture. Such imagery included advertising, mass media, comic books, celebrities, and elements of popular culture, like magazines, movies, and even bottles and cans.

Pop art paintings tend to focus on bold colors and realistic imagery. There is usually no hidden meaning in the composition either. Pop artists rarely use any of the traditional techniques of perspective to create an illusion of realism in the painting. Some pop artists use mass production techniques such as silk screening to replicate their works, mirroring the manufacturing process of consumer goods. Because of its commercial imagery, pop art is one of the most recognizable modern art styles.

Additional Reading

Classification of Fine Art Paintings by Genre

What Are The Classifications of Art?

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UPDATED: 10 March 2023

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