Painting small is the next big thing

A group of abstract artists turns away from grand and compelling. They consciously work with small sizes.

Why should a work of art be big? This might be a strange question for many collectors. If they have the choice, they opt for large formats. Large is the norm in art.


Klaudia Krynicka: Sunrise, acrylic on canvas, 30 x 40 cm, € 860

Attention issue
But also for artists large is often better. Traditionally they see a hefty work as a sign of craftsmanship. Large landscapes and biblical scenes were formerly in higher esteem than the smaller still lifes and genre paintings. More craftmanship is needed to make large paintings, is the common view.

Moreover, the more extensive the painting, the better it was seen in the Paris salons. Thus it was also a matter of getting attention. And so it remained in art history, up to post-war heroes like Pollock and Warhol. But in the nineties of the last century the greatness norm reached grotesque forms. Large, noisy and bombastic was the way to catch the attention of potential buyers at art fairs. An art critic of The New Yorker magazine came up with the  term festival art.

Vera Oxfort: Medias Res 1,2 and 3, oil and pencil on canvas, 40 x 40 cm, € 860 per stuk

Global trend
Fortunately, a counter movement arose during the past decade. Artists reject the drama and opt for less screaming subjects and techniques. A trend towards the personal and intimate, in which the small size fits well. The New York Times called the miniature in 2008 ‘the next big thing’. According to Vogue, painting small is now a worldwide trend.

No window
These small abstract works break with a long realistic tradition of the painting as a window. Also they go against the late modernist conception of the painting as a wall. They measure themselves with other, less praised techniques: prints, manuscripts and icons. It is precisely the small size that lends itself to a serious investigation of the painting process. For both the painter and the public.

Margit Buß: WN 76/1 en 78/2, acrylic laquer op canvas, 13 x 13 cm, € 375 each

There are more advantages to small paintings. No worries about matching with the sofa: a smaller work always matches. Especially in the usually modest Dutch houses with less space to hang art. In addition, small works offer more opportunities for shifting and moving. Are you tired of work? Then you just  put it away. A corner in the cupboard will do.

An additional advantage: small works are usually more affordable. Not always, because some artists make the smaller size their trademark and demand high prices. Fortunately, this does not apply to all painters. New German Art has works in smaller sizes (<50 cm) by Helga von Berg-Reese, Katrin Hosterbach, Klaudia Krynicka Ellen Mäder-Gutz, Vera Oxfort and Ute Wöllmann.

Opening picture: Katrin Hosterbach, Am Faden 1, watercolor and felt-tip pen on paper, 30 x 30 cm (framed), € 340

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