Overview of Different Painting Styles

I have tried my hand at painting. I’m not the best. Actually, I’m probably toward the bottom of the list when it comes to easel talent. However, despite my personal shortcomings I still appreciate art in its many forms. Here is a brief rundown of some of my favorite styles of painting. Please note that there are countless other styles, I am only listing the few that interest me most.


A realistic painting is one that displays an object as it appears in real life. While the artist uses perspective, he or she also uses creative liberties. They may choose to alter the tone or the lighting to emphasize specific qualities or aspects of the subject. The style, used mainly by French painters, began in the 1700s and it reached its peak in the mid-1800s. An example of realism would be the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.


Photorealism is a realistic style that resembles a sharply focused photograph. If it looks so real, why isn’t it just called realism? The reason is that it’s almost too real. Every detail is considered from a dimple on someone’s face to a small scratch on an automobile. Unlike standard realism, there is no alteration to a photorealistic painting – the image is painted as it appears in the physical realm. Photorealism is said to have originated in the late 1960s in the United States.


Abstract is the complete opposite of realistic. It does not represent anything in particular, but rather it is appreciated for its use of color, texture and materials. While abstract artists are quick to say that others don’t appreciate their work, it is the emotions that people feel when looking at the art that truly defines it. Abstract art originated in America soon after World War II, combining the earlier styles of German Expressionism, European Futurism and Cubism.


Impressionism was developed in 1800s Paris. It accounts for an individual’s perception of light, so pieces of art that use the style are of outdoor scenes. Impressionist paintings frequently feature blurred sections and silhouettes or shadows. The works by Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir are considered impressionist.


Fauvism was a short-lived style in France between 1904 and 1908. Led by Henri Matisse, this movement retained elements of Impressionism while altering colors or perspective to provide a different perception of reality. Fauvist paintings were generally simple and featured bright and wild colors.


Surrealist paintings are often dream-like, sometimes borderline nightmarish. They portray everyday objects in unfamiliar ways. Sigmund Freud used surrealist art for association and analysis tests on his patients. Salvador Dali is one of the most well-known surrealist artists. His work The Persistence of Memory features clocks that appear to be melting.