The battle between realistic artwork and abstract imagery has been waged since the early 20th century. Some of the biggest names on either side of the fence have made massive contributions to the world of art, but can it really be said that one style is better than the other? There are those dedicated artists and passionate enthusiasts on either side that will say yes, while many people are able to appreciate both. We’ve taken a look at the two styles to see what each has to offer, and some of the common criticisms.

Many fans of realistic art will often say that abstract art is just a bunch of random lines and smudges. The criticism is that there’s not as much skill required to produce abstract art. The lack of intricate detail is often mistaken for a lack of experience or lower quality art. This isn’t necessarily the case, as most abstract artists will start out being trained in more classical art-styles.

The argument to this common misconception is that art is supposed to be an expression of yourself or a reflection of what you see. The use of colour, brush strokes and patterns in abstract art can be just as emotionally inspiring and though provoking as realism. There’s no denying that realism has been a mainstream artistic style for a long time, but it has had to share the spotlight since the inception of contemporary movements such as Cubism and Expressionism.

Realistic painting has roots much older than abstract art. The 1800s saw the development of what is known as the realism movement, with iconic artists such as Maxfield Parrish and Augustus Vincent Tack. The aim of realism is to depict everyday situations by observing common places or activities. Britain’s biggest museums are home to some of the most famous realistic paintings in the world. These draw in hundreds of viewers every day, which indicates a love for this more classic style of art.

Unfortunately the idea of which style is better, is purely down to personal opinion and cannot be answered definitively. The two types of art are the antithesis of each other in terms of style, but are the same in terms of their goal, which is to portray life. Realism illustrates life in a realistic way, whereas abstract art portrays life in a non-realistic way. The two styles are simply different ways of approaching the same question.