The joy of painting in the 21st century is in fact the wide range of available forms of expression. The late 19th and 20th centuries saw artists make huge leaps in painting styles.Some influenced by technological advances, such as the invention of the metal paint tube and the evolution of photography, as well as changes in social conventions, politics, and philosophy, along with world events.

This list describes 4 styles of art (sometimes referred to as “schools” or “movements”), some much more realistic than others. Although you won’t be part of the original movement—the group of artists who generally shared the same painting style and ideas during a specific time in history—you can still paint in the styles they used. You may be inspired and you can begin to develop and nurture your own style.


What we consider Realism, in which the subject of the painting looks much like the real thing rather than being stylized or abstracted, is the style many people think of as “true art.” Only when examined close up do what appear to be solid colors reveal themselves as a series of brushstrokes of many colors and values.

This style of painting has been the dominant style of painting since the Renaissance. The artist uses perspective to create an illusion of space and depth, setting the composition and lighting such that the subject appears real. Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is a classic example of the style.


This style, Impressionism emerged in the 1880’s in Europe, where artists such as Claude Monet sought to capture light, not through the detail of realism, but with gesture and illusion. Up close you can see bold strokes of color, however, there’s no doubt what you’re looking at.

Objects retain their realistic appearance yet have a vibrancy about them that’s unique to this style.


Expressionism began to appear in studios and galleries at the turn of the 20th century. Characterized by the use of bold, unrealistic colors chosen not to depict life as it is, but rather, as it feels or appears to the artist. 


Purely abstract work actively shuns realism, thriving in the embrace of the subjective. The subject or point of the painting is the colors used, the textures in the artwork, and the materials employed to create it.

Here are some other extremely popular painting styles:

Painterly, Abstraction, Photorealism & Fauvism.

Sources - thoughtco
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