begin the journey

Why abstraction? Why do some artists choose to work in the abstract rather than in a naturalistic manner? How did abstraction come about?


Dyadic Caryatid
Frank Piatek
Click image for larger view and caption.

Many people continue to ask these questions today, nearly one hundred years after the landmark Armory Show of 1913. That exhibition, quite literally, created a sensation when it debuted in New York (then traveled to Chicago and finally, to Boston) with what were then the most current examples of European and American avant-garde art.

This online presentation and its partner — an exhibit in the real world, were designed to introduce important concepts about abstraction and its history in a non-threatening manner by pairing important examples of paintings, drawings, and prints drawn exclusively from the collection of the Illinois State Museum with user-friendly text.

Take the plunge!

Visit the interactive timeline of some of the events leading up to the creation and flowering of abstract art in the early 20th century.

See how artists responded to the visual challenges they faced.

Find answers to questions like "What is it?" and "Why did they do that?" in the sections called

seeing things differently
reforming formal elements
crossing the line.

Uncover more information about the scandalous Armory Show and learn how abstraction arrives in Illinois in 1913.

Celebrate the achievements of Manierre Dawson, a little-known Illinois pioneer of abstraction whose early paintings challenge generally accepted dates for the origin of pure abstraction.

Be resourceful and use our glossary and interactive table of "isms," a chart of early schools of art or movements in abstraction, to delve deeper and develop a better understanding of the flow of thought concerning the move away from realism.

Teach about abstraction using examples from our activities heading.

Research the origin and history of the Art in the Abstract exhibition