What Style of Art Are You?

style of art
Chromogenic by Clint Baclawski, 2013. Photo and light installation, Boston.

There are a number of ways to become familiar with historic art styles, from visiting museums to decorating your college dorm room with budget-friendly posters. These interactions with art can be helpful in finding a style that appeals to you today. Think about the things you liked in the past, and consider the following when buying art for your home.

What to Think About
  • Consider all of the available spaces in your home.
  • Get off the walls and think three-dimensionally by introducing sculpture.
  • Think about what will fit with the overall style of your home and your personal aesthetic.

Rather than give you a breakdown of historical art styles through the ages, let’s consider art in broader terms, which may help you match a type of art to your personality.

  • Classic and idealized, such as figurative and landscapes.
  • Surreal and fantastical.
  • Abstract and geometric.
  • Photographic realism, or even photography.
  • Whimsical, such as pop art and cartoons.

Classic and Idealized

This category includes Italian Renaissance art and the Barbizon School. We could classify portraits and group paintings, landscapes and still lifes, or just a depiction of a day in the country as a classic and idealized style. It is evocative of famous works of art, and often at the forefront of fine arts museums. It is very easy to decide if this style is for you, and it will probably stem from a love of the classics. This style is particularly suited to a classical home — perhaps Georgian or Plantation style, or even Italianate. Classic and idealized art is also best suited to large, open spaces, such as living rooms.

style of art

Mornex (Haute-Savoie)-au fond, le Môle by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, c. 1842. Oil on Canvas, dimensions 40 × 50 cm (15.7 × 19.7 in). Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.While Impressionist art was considered daring and untraditional in its day, we can include it with classic and idealized art. Works in this category fit nicely with a similar interior design style. Many Realist painters today are still using Impressionist techniques to create landscapes and portraits. 


Surreal and Fantastical

If you are a fan of Salvador Dali or Pablo Picasso, this might be a style for you to investigate. The nature and medium of art allows artists to stretch the limits of the imagination. Artists in this category are interested in showing the landscape of the mind, rather than the world. However, there are often human truths within these imagined landscapes. This kind of work usually appeals to viewers who prefer adventure off the beaten path, and look at things from a different point of view.

style of art

Head of a Woman (Fernande). Plaster sculpture by Pablo Picasso, 1909, Tate Modern. Photo by Wmpearl (Own work) [CC0 or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.While Pablo Picasso is not academically considered Surrealist, he is included in this context because he portrayed his subject matter in a way that was meant to conjure your perceptions of the subject. 

This kind of art would fit best in an unconventional, avant-garde style home — perhaps Bauhaus or Art Deco. While a large painting or sculpture would suit a spacious, open area, this style might also work for a more introspective space such as a bedroom or office. Beware of using bold background colors with this kind of art – bold colors and bold centerpieces don’t complement each other well.

Abstract and geometric

Color field theory, minimalism, and action painting all fit in this category. Abstract art is an attempt to get away from the literal interpretations of paintings. If you find a piece introspective and meditative when looking at it, then this is the style for you. Abstract geometric imagery tends to appeal to those who like order and balance. Piet Mondrian is a perfect example.

These works tend to be large, and so they are best suited to an open space. Surprisingly, art in this style works just as well in classical homes as it does in more modern, sleek homes. The key is balance with the interior design.

Photographic Realism or Photography

It is tempting to think of photography as small pieces that work best in compact spaces. While this is true, do not rule out using photography on a large scale, or in new and exciting ways.

style of art

Chromogenic by Clint Baclawski, 2013. Photo and light installation, Boston.

Because it is a relatively new medium, artists are constantly exploring techniques and ideas in photography. Interestingly, these techniques and ideas are reinvested in other, more traditional mediums, such as painting, giving us works that are “photo-realistic.” Photography and photo-realism tend to appeal to viewers who like immediacy and modernity. Pieces come in nearly every size, and therefore work in almost any space. You can also fill up a large space with many small works and create a “gallery wall.” Whatever the size, select frames that match the interior style of your home.

Whimsical Art

Pop Art and cartoon illustrations include a sense of humor and whimsy, even if the subject matter is more serious. They usually have a sense of popularization and mass appeal, while maintaining individuality. Often, works in this style tell a kind of inside joke, which is one of their greatest charms. There is a great variety of work within this style, but overall, you ultimately choose a piece because it made you laugh, even at serious subject matter.

style of art

Masterpiece (Roy Lichtenstein), 1962 by Roy Lichtenstein. Licensed under Fair use of copyrighted material in the context of Masterpiece (Roy Lichtenstein) via Wikipedia.
Masterpiece (Roy Lichtenstein) is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Lichtenstein’s own rising fame and mass appeal, which could be attributed to his use of this “comic-book” style and technique of Ben Day dots. 

Whatever style of art you choose, imagine it in different spaces throughout your house, and what your reaction will be whenever you encounter it. Because art is a part of your space, ultimately, you want to feel “at home” with it.

What Style of Art Are You? was last modified: January 24th, 2017 by Ginger Russell
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