Canvas, Color, and Contemplation: The World of Minimalistic Painting.

Contributed by Jacquelyn Olalere.

In the late 1960s, a couple of artists woke up one morning and thought, “Hmm, we’re not doing this anymore.” By this, they meant the usual way of painting which had become redundant for them. They decided that the usual way was too much, albeit too dramatic, and took the little is enough adage, which gave us what we now know as minimalistic painting.


Minimalistic painting is a style of visual art that emphasizes simplicity, minimalism, and a reduction of elements to their essential forms. In minimalistic painting, artists strive to express their ideas or emotions using a minimal number of visual components such as color, shape, line, and form.

The famous painter Frank Stella was one of the first artists specifically associated with minimalism. His work, “pinstripe” paintings were included in the 1959 show, 16 Americans, organized by Dorothy Miller at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Minimalistic painting is mainly known for its emphasis on simplicity, reduction of elements to their essential forms, and the use of minimal visual components to convey powerful ideas or emotions. Some of the key aspects that minimalistic painting is renowned for include:

Simplicity: Minimalistic paintings are known for their simplicity and lack of unnecessary detail. Artists often reduce their compositions to the bare essentials, focusing on fundamental elements.

Limited Color Palette: Minimalistic paintings often use a limited color palette, with artists choosing just a few colors or even a single color to create their work. This emphasis on color simplicity can convey powerful emotions or ideas.

Geometric Shapes: Minimalistic artists frequently employ geometric shapes like squares, rectangles, circles, or lines as the primary visual elements. These shapes are often arranged in precise and balanced compositions.

Symmetry and Balance: Minimalistic paintings often exhibit a sense of symmetry and balance, creating a feeling of harmony and order within the composition.

Emphasis on Space: Negative space, or the empty areas around and between the visual elements, plays a crucial role in minimalistic painting. The use of empty space can be as important as the use of positive space (the objects or shapes) in conveying meaning.

Reduced Detail: Artists in this style tend to eliminate unnecessary details, textures, and distractions. This reduction of detail allows viewers to focus on the essence of the artwork.

Emotional Impact: Despite their simplicity, minimalistic paintings can carry profound emotional or intellectual meaning. The artist often encourages viewers to engage with the work on a contemplative level, inviting personal interpretation.


Minimalistic painting has been associated with several notable artists who have made significant contributions to this artistic style including Piet Mondrian, a Dutch painter known for his works, such as the “Composition” series, Kazimir Malevich, a Russian painter and pioneer of abstract art, renowned for his “Black Square”  painting. Others include Agnes Martin, Donald Judd, Ellsworth Kelly, and Dan Flavin.

These artists, along with the contributions of others, have left a lasting impact on the world of paintings through their use of minimalism.

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