In the 20th century, art freed itself from the mimetic representation of the outside world. Abstract art is opposed to figurative art. Subjects or objects are not faithful representations of reality but are depicted as shapes and colors. Artists invented a new language, a "visual language," based on the simplification and decomposition of forms. The Impressionists and Fauvists established this style by using colors that did not depict reality. Color triumphed over the representation of reality. This differs from cubism where artists deconstruct forms. Two main styles emerged out of this movement : lyrical abstraction and geometric abstraction.
After 1945, abstract art sought to broaden its horizon but always held true to the formal non-figurative technique that can be seen in American abstract expressionism with action painting or color field painting.
Even today, abstraction remains a source of inspiration and is widely used by contemporary artists.