UGallery Style Guide to The Isms

The art world is buzzing with isms: expressionism, impressionism, minimalism, realism, surrealism…you get the idea.

More than just academic terms, the isms can help you identify patterns in what you do and don’t like in art. At UGallery, we use the isms to categorize the work on our site so that you can easily find your favorite pieces (check out the Style section on  

Here is a quick guide to help with your isms:


Expressionism is all about the subjective and emotional expression of the artist. The canvas is often a very personal display of the artist’s own ideas and feelings.  Rather than paint how he or she sees the world, expressionism is more how he or she feels the world.  What to expect: non-conventional colors, abstracted forms.


Allen Wittert, Angela


Impressionism is a style that focuses on capturing the perception of a fleeting moment. Typically, artists strive to capture the ephemeral like leaves in a gust of wind or a light playing off of water. What to expect: quick, light brushstrokes, fleeting scenes.


Sarah Beth Goncarova, Autumn Field


With Minimalism: simplify, simplify, simplify! A minimalist pushes art to its most elemental form. Artists create their work using the least amount of colors, shapes, textures, and lines. What to expect: geometric forms, straight lines, solid colors.


Shyun Song, Encounter


Realism strives for the most realistic portrayal of a subject. With controlled brushstrokes, the paint often hides the hand of the artist to create naturalistic scenes. What to expect: realistic subjects and colors.


Jerry Gadd, Kennett Square Inn


In surrealism, the artist taps into their psyche and releases a new and imaginative creativity.  These dreamlike images are unencumbered by the laws and limitations of reality. In a surrealist’s world you are free to opt out of the laws of gravity or even lounge on a cheeseburger. What to expect: anything!


Shawna Gilmore, Whale Bed