Paintings 101

You may have heard that an abstract painting is good choice of wall art for contemporary style rooms.  But do you know what an abstract painting actually is?  These commonly used terms will help you choose the right painting or print to suit your decorating style:


When you can’t figure out what the painting is depicting, it’s usually abstract art.  Literally, abstract paintings are designs, shapes or colors that do not look like specific object or person.  Abstract paintings are more difficult to understand for the average homeowner, so they tend to choose abstract art with the lines and colors that they need to decorate the room.  It's usually used in more modern and contemporary interiors, but can look just right for a traditional as well.


Gaining popularity in France in the late 19th Century, Impressionist art is a reflection, literally, on the play of light within a scene.  Claude Monet is the best known Impressionist painter.  Impressionist paintings and prints can light up any décor, from rustic to traditional.

Representational / Realist

Just the opposite of abstract, you can actually tell what’s depicted in the painting.  Realism paintings look true to life, and with the exceptions of still-life paintings, tend to be used in more traditional rooms, but can also go in any style of decor.


Expressionist paintings are those with highly charged emotional content.  Originating in Germany as an artistic rebellion to French impressionist art, expressionist paintings tend to distort reality to evoke emotion.  Probably the most famous epressionist painting is Edward Munch’s The Scream.  They tend to be used primarily in contemporary rooms.


Modernist paintings are mid-20th Century works of art that are a more elegant and stylized version of abstract art.  They tend to work nicely in contemporary and, of course, modern styled rooms.


If you’ve ever seen any prints or paintings by Salvador Dali, you’ve seen surrealism.  Surrealist paintings represent the subconscious mind of the artist by creating outrageous imagery and juxtaposing contradictory ideas.  Surrealist paintings and prints are usually most appropriate for modern and contemporary interiors.


No longer considered just pictures, photography is now considered a legitimate art form, as it should be.  Ansel Adams prints tend to be the best known photography.  His black and white images of nature are still widely used in decorating, and rightfully so.  Photography can be used in any room, and using your own original photography is a great way to decorate your walls when you’re watching your budget.