Representational Abstract Art…Finding the Right Words

I had a challenging question at the information desk today. A student was working on a paper about “representational abstract art.” This was a new phrase to me, since I would assume that if the piece of art was abstract it would be non-representational. The student told me that he was thinking about art movement such as Cubism, where the work is abstract, but it is also is a representation of a real thing (most of the time). So, this would be something in contrast to a purely abstract work which is not a form a of a real thing.

We ended up being successful in searching in our collection of books on abstract art and looking up terms in the book index. We also were successful in using some of our art databases. We found some entries in Credo Reference online. Interestingly, the term “non-representational” is used more often in abstract art research than the term “representational.” This was one of those searches where the student had a solid idea of what he was after, but his terminology didn’t quite line up with the terms used by artists and art historians.

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