The beginner's guide to minimalism

White desk, minimalist art print and beige chair amongst white wall

In the past, you might have heard of the term “minimalism” without really considering what it means, or what minimalistic artwork entails. If this is you, don’t worry; we’re here to inform you on this style of art and its history. We’ll also introduce you to the famous minimalist artists who have made an impact over the years; after all, these are the people who have truly made minimalism what it is today.

Simply read our full guide to top up your knowledge on this art form. You’ll be an expert in no time…

What is minimalism?A minimalistic art print portraying a green, detailed plant leaf

To put it simply, minimalism is a heightened form of abstract art that started in America in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Minimalism seems simple to understand but there is a lot more depth to it than most people realise.

Typically, minimalistic artwork includes designs of basic geometric shapes, hinged on the traditional shapes of the rectangle and square. Unlike other art styles, minimalism represents the real world in its truest form, rather than basing the central theme of a print, sculpture or painting on a personal interpretation. Frank Stella, an icon in the minimalist world once explained this art perfectly, “what you see is what you see”.

A history of minimalism movementsAn example of minimalism: An orange cut in half and painted blue

The origins of minimalist art came as a direct reaction against the former decade’s Abstract Expressionism movement, which thrived in post-World War II New York. Minimalism also had an enormous impact on modernism's history, as minimalism was a movement that provided a new way of looking at, experiencing and creating art.

As time went on, younger minimalist artists began re-establishing traditional examples of minimalism. They looked to new influences and began questioning the traditional boundaries of this art style. They started creating less excessive pieces, swapping a superfluous approach for more relaxed and stylish versions of artwork than those that came before.

As the 1970s drew to a close, minimalistic artwork had come on leaps and bounds, prevailing in Europe as well as the U.S.A. thanks to art dealers, various publications, and museum directors.

Post-MinimalismA minimalist art photograph featuring the detailed centre of a succulent plant

Then we saw the Post-Minimalism art movement take the limelight. This was a movement that emerged after the birth of minimalism. It is typified by designs that sought to extend minimalism’s exploration of anonymity, abstract designs, and sculptures.

Instead, it highlights objects for exactly what they are, which is what we see from minimalism today. For instance, an artist may sculpt a lifelike statue of a tree that is wilting or rotting to depict the natural character and realism of a sapling, rather than introducing their own personal ideas and interpretations surrounding this object.

Famous minimalist artistsAn assortment of five different coloured, wet paintbrushes

Now you’ve taken an interest in this sublime style of artwork, you’ll want to know who the most famous minimalist artists are. This will certainly help you become more familiar with minimalistic artwork and give you some context when reviewing pieces by these artists.

Some of the most notable minimalist artists to this date are as follows:

  • Eva Hesse
  • Frank Stella
  • Dan Flavin
  • Anne Truitt
  • Donald Judd
  • Agnes Martin

If you’re new to this art form, we don’t expect you to know who they are right away and what their illustration art pieces entail. Although if you do, you deserve a bonus point! Regardless of whether or not you’re aware of who these icons are, it’s certainly worth researching each of these artists. Doing so will allow you to get a better understanding of their standpoint on minimalism and how their pieces apply to this particular style and incite change within the movement.

Popular pieces by famous artists

There are so many prominent but differing art pieces to admire, and once you start looking, you won’t be able to stop. Take Jiro Yoshihara’s ‘Red Circle on Black’ from 1965, or the celebrated ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ sculpture by Tony Smith, from 1975. Both these pieces fall under the umbrella of minimalism, and yet are so wonderfully different. That is the beauty of minimalism.

There are so many intriguing art pieces for you to find out about and even view for yourself in real life. Now you know the objects and shapes to look out for, spotting minimalist artwork at a gallery will come a lot more naturally to you.

Begin buying your own collection of minimalistic artworkAn assortment of four different Tall Boy Prints' contemporary, minimalist art prints against a blue wall

Now you’re clued up on what minimalism is and the different and distinctive styles that are available, you can treat yourself, or a loved one, to a print that will accentuate your (or their) décor. All you need to do is explore our varied collection of different art styles to find the perfect piece and start experimenting with this style of art.

It may be that you’re interested in uncovering more information on this art type. If this is the case, head over to our blog to read articles about how to transform your space with minimalist artamongst many others.