What are the 3 Types of Visual Art?

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

Abstract by Jackson Pollock

There are three styles art of which each of these categories have various subcategories. These types can be misunderstood or misrepresented, however, whether the art is three dimensional sculpture or two dimensional, it will still ultimately fall under one of these three categories. These categories are:

1. Representational

2. Abstract

3. Non-Objective


Representational artwork aims to represent real objects or subjects. Subcategories under Representational art include Realism, Impressionism, Idealism, and Stylisation. All of these forms of “Representationalism” depict actual subjects from reality. Representational art is the oldest of the three categories. A famous example of this category includes the Paleolithic cave paintings from Lascaux in France. These paintings of horses and other animals are one of the most ancient forms of representational art ever discovered.

Representation - Paleolithic cave

It is also the easiest to understand by the average person and viewer as it’s meant to be recognisable as what it claims to be. Celeste Hilmer’s tomato painting is a modern example of representational art.

Representation - "Tomato's" by Celeste Hilmer


This type of art is often misunderstood as it takes a subject and then depicts it in a way which is different to how we see it in the real world. Lines, shapes and colours are often used as techniques to alter and transform a subject to make it less traditional. Minimalism, Cubism and Precisionism are subcategories of Abstract art. The movement is relatively new and began with Impressionist artists taking a more intellectual approach towards painting and offered them a sense of independence from the visual world. Momentum for this style began to increase around the end of the 19th century. Wassally Kandinsky and Jackson Pollock are two of the most famous Abstract artists from the 20th century.

Abstract - Wassally Kandinsky


Often mistaken for Abstract art, non-objective art is actually very different because it takes nothing from reality. The intent behind this style of art is create something aesthetically pleasing - it tends to be geometric and does not represent specific objects, people, or other subjects found in the natural world. The viewer isn’t required to have a pre-existing relationship to the subject, therefore, it attracts a broad audience over time. Kandinsky was considered to be non-objective artist. The Russian artist was one of the pioneers of this style and his “Composition VIII” (1923) is an example of a non-objective painting.

Kandinsky “Composition VIII” (1923), non-objective painting

Hopefully you now understand a little more about art and its main categories. There are many styles of art available, however, as you learn you will realise they all fall under one of these three main categories.


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