Learning About Painting Styles: 7 of the Most Popular Types

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Since the first person held a paintbrush, the art of painting has evolved into a much more complex endeavor. It is no longer simply putting paintbrushes to canvas. 

While it is important to make sure you have high-quality painting supplies, your chosen painting style is an important factor in your craft as well. 

There are so many different painting styles now that it can be hard to keep up as a new artist. While one artist might prefer expressing themselves through one style, another artist will favor a completely different style.

Here are the seven most popular painting styles made famous by artists around the world:

1. Impressionism

Many of the painting masters of the 19th century used impressionism as their painting style. Monet, Renoir, Manet, and Pissaro are known for their impressionistic painting style.

This art style grew out of the practice of painting outside and capturing a scene as quickly as you can before it moves. 

This required that the artists used quick brushstrokes to complete a painting and to recreate the natural sunlight gleaming off their subjects. 

The most famous examples of impressionism are Claude Monet’s Waterlilies, Luncheon of the Boating Party by Renoir, and The Boulevard Montmartre at Night by Camille Pissaro. 

2. Expressionism

This style of painting involves including more emotion into the painting instead of simply painting what the artist sees. These paintings involve more color and movement, rather than still life.

These paintings evoke feelings and ideas from those that appreciate the art. What one person may feel could be different from another but the painting is the expression of the artist’s emotions and is up for interpretation.

Famous expressionism paintings include The Scream by Edvard Munch, Franz Marc’s The Large Blue Horses, and Castle and Sun by Paul Klee. 

3. Realism

As the name implies, this style of painting is the art of replicating what an artist sees with the naked eye. 

Also known as naturalism, it’s important to understand that these still look like paintings, unlike photorealism, which we will discuss in #7.

Instead of following a certain pattern or style, the artist does their best to paint the subject as close to reality as they can by focusing on color, light, form, and perspective.

The most widely recognized paintings using realism include the Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, Olympia by Edouard Manet, and A Burial at Ornans by Gustave Courbet.

4. Surrealism

Surrealism painting is a more poetic way to express yourself through art. Challenging the rational view, surrealistic paintings hold a dreamlike vision from the unconscious of the artist.

Although some artists may find this style to be dead, others still believe it is still a strong part of the world of art.

There are many famous surrealist paintings that still interest humans to this day. They include The Persistence of Memory by Salvadore Dali, The Broken Column by Frida Kahlo, and Guernica by Pablo Picasso. 

5. Abstract

Abstract painting is a style of contemporary art that is a mix of color and shape that cannot be identified as something that exists and these are some of the great art works of Robert Lyn Nelson.

Good abstract art can calm a restless soul or excite the dulled mind. The most popular abstract painters include Jackson Pollock and Wassily Kandinsky. 

Piet Mondrian’s Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow is a simple painting with squares of these three colors along with black and white, but many people would recognize it right away.

While it might be considered that abstract artists lack the real talent needed to paint a picture that resembles something known, it takes talent to create an abstract painting with a balance of color and form that others can appreciate. A nice thing about abstract art is that you can go in so many different directions. You can paint abstract boho art for decor, or you could go more in the direction of abstract shapes.

6. Pop Art

This style of painting is purely American, as it highlights many of the cultural icons in this country.

Andy Warhol’s Campbell Soup, Marily Diptych, and Brillo Box are perfect examples of pop art. 

Another artist known for their contribution to the pop art collection is Keith Haring with his block stick men and the various works of art that include them. 

7. Photorealism

With photorealistic paintings, it can be hard to know that you are looking at a painting. This painting style requires painstaking attention to detail to create a painting that looks so real you could swear it was a photo, hence the name.

Charles Bell has a couple of famous paintings using this style; Gumball II and Kandy Kane Rainbow.


These seven styles are just a fraction of the ways artists have used paint to express the world around them. Learning different styles can help you blossom as an artist and challenge your painting abilities.

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