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10 Obscure Art Movements That Will Make You Scratch Your Head

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Art can be complicated. Often, it is difficult to interpret its meaning or unearth the message that the artist wants to convey. Other times, it is difficult to understand the techniques and methods used.

However, art also belongs to various different categories and art movements that further complicate things. Some movements are straightforward, others not so much. Below we have compiled a list of the strangest and most obscure art movements that existed or still exist in the world.

10. Intentism


If you have ever been to an art exhibition and wondered what exactly the artist meant with his piece of art, you probably know that sometimes understanding the meaning and intention of art can be rather difficult. Perhaps there is no intention in art, we wonder. Or perhaps the intention and the message is whatever we decide it to be. However, followers of Intentism would disagree.

Intentism is an international art movement of artists, authors, actors and musicians who believe that art can convey an intended message to those viewing it.

Intentists follow three principles. Firstly, they feel that artists are free to convey their message to society. Secondly, they believe that confused, hidden or denied intentions lead to zero accountability. Thirdly and lastly, they think that the exclusion of intention can lead to enforced restrictions on the artist.

Indeed, Intentists believe that through the rejection of intention and authorship, creative work becomes indifferent and anaemic.

9. Orphism Art Movements

Orphism Obscure Art Movements

Orphism, also called Orphic Cubism or Simultaneism, is a trend in abstract art which derived from Cubism. The movement was named by a French poet, Guillaume Apollinaire, in 1912, and gives priority to light and colour. Apollinaire thought that this new style of painting brought musical qualities to the paintings. The name Orphism comes from Orpheus, a poet and singer from ancient Greece mythology.

The movement was started by Robert Delaunay and his wife, Sonia Delaunay-Terk. Unlike Cubists, they believed colour to be a powerful element in their art, although just like Cubists, they were greatly interested in geometric fragmentation.

The movement was short-lived and came to an end before World War I.

8. Fluxus Art Movements

Fluxus Obscure Art Movements

Fluxus was a group of artists that were known for blending different artistic media in the 1960s. Fluxus artists could be found all over the world but an especially large concentration of them could be found in New York as well as various German cities.

George Maciunas is considered to be the main founder of the group. He coined the name ‘Fluxus’ and edited the movement’s numerous publications.

Followers of Fluxus strongly disagreed with the idea that museums have the right to decide the value of art. They also did not think that viewers of art have to be in any way educated to view and understand art. Not only did members of Fluxus desire to make all art acceptable to the public – they also wanted to ensure that each and every individual produced art regurlarly.

7. Arte Povera

Arte povera, or poor art

Arte povera, or poor art, was an artistic movement that emerged in the 1960s. Members of this group were Italian artists who created their art from commonplace materials such as rocks, clothing and paper. The group rejected minimalism and modernist abstract painting.

The name of the movement was introduced by the Italian art critic and curator, Germano Celant. He wanted the name to convey the notion of art made without restraints, a complete and utter opennes to materials and processes.

The group’s most memorable art, however, comes from their use of unprocessed materials with references to consumer culture. The group aimed at contrasting the new and the old to complicate our sense of the passing time.

6. Yellowism

Obscure Art Movements

In 2012, a vandal named Vladimir Umanets scrawled graffiti on Mark Rothko’s mural which was on exhibit at London’s Tate Modern. The graffiti read “Vladimir Umanets, A Potential Piece of Yellowism.” With that, the movement of Yellowism gained international recognition.

Yellowism is an artistic movement run by two people – Vladimir Umanets and Marcin Lodyga. The movement began in Egypt in 2010 when the first exhibition was unveiled and has continued since, although grasping Yellowism is not an easy task. Apparently, in order for a piece of art to be considered as a part of Yellowism, it needs to be either displayed in a yellow gallery-like space or signed by a Yellowist.

Umanets also says that “The main difference between Yellowism and art is that in art you have got freedom of interpretation, in Yellowism you don’t have freedom of interpretation, everything is about Yellowism, that’s it.” Indeed, to most people the movement of Yellowism just seems like vandalism and obscure nonsense, but perhaps Yellowists will eventually surprise us all.

5. Mannerism Art Movements

Obscure Art Movements Mannerism

Mannerism originated in Italy in 1520, and soon spread throughout Europe. Instead of focusing on naturalistic representations, this movement concentrated on complexity and virtuosity. Giuseppe Arcimboldo, the artist behind portraits made entirely of objects such as vegetables, fruits, flowers and the like, is a great example of a Mannerist.

The name of the movement comes from the Italian word ‘maniera’ which simply means style. Indeed, Mannerists believed that natural paintings were too plain, too simple for life. They thought it best to spice up life with invention and refinement, as well as a virtuoso technique. Early Mannerists liked to use elongated forms, irrational settings and theatrical lighting. Thus perhaps it comes as no surprise that mannerist paintings often leave the viewer nervous and unsettled.

4. The Incoherents

Incoherents art movement

The Incoherents was an art movement founded in 1882 by a Parisian writer and publisher Jules Levy. The movement exhibited drawings of children or people who did not know how to draw, “found” objects, parodies of famous art pieces as well as political and social satire. Thus, in that way, the movement was not only meant to serve as an artistic exhibition or an artistic outlet, but also as a form of public entertainment.

It started when Jules Levy decided to organize an evening whereby people who could not draw would be encouraged to draw and paint as well as create art in general. It was a huge success and a few months later, he repeated the experiment at his home in the company of his friends. Once again, the evening proved to be successful and resulted in extensive newspaper coverage. Before long, ‘The Incoherents’ were part of Parisian culture.

Unfortunately, in 1886, Levy became the target for criticism as people began to claim that he was using ‘The Incoherents’ for his own interests. Others too started using the name for their own endeavours – Incoherent cafes and magazines were established but in reality, they had nothing to do with the actual people taking part in the movement. Thus, Levy decided to end this movement, and while there were a couple brief recovery attempts, the movement was forgotten in the ashes of Parisian trends.

3. Dazzle Camouflage

Dazzle Camouflage Obscure Art Movements

Dazzle camouflage was a technique used to camouflage ships in World War I as well as World War II and after. It is also known as ‘dazzle camouflage’ or ‘razzle dazzle’ and is attributed to Norman Wilkinson.

Wilkinson, who was an artist and illustrator, as well as a Royal Navy volunteer in World War One, realized the danger of Germany U-boats and devised a plan to help the Allied ships with his artistic abilities.

Being fully aware that it is impossible to camouflage ships in a way that would render them unnoticeable, he decided that the very opposite was needed. Thus, crazy shapes and bold colors were painted on the ships to confuse the enemy, making it difficult for them to estimate the speed, size, and direction of the ships. However, the effectiveness of this technique was ever measured so it is unclear whether ‘razzle dazzle’ was in any way superior to plain ships.

2. Fauvism Art Movements

Fauvism Art Movements

Fauvism emerged in the early Twentieth century in France and was one of the first successful avant-garde movements. The Fauves, which loosely translated means ‘the wild beasts’, expressed themselves through bold brushstrokes and vibrant, often unnatural colors which they applied directly from the tube. The artists preferred individual expression and intuition over academic theory and accurate representation. Thus, many paintings made by ‘Fauves’ were abstract and simple.

The movement gained its name after Louis Vauxcelles, an art critic, saw the paintings of Henri Matisse and Andre Derain, as well as various other artists, and called them ‘les fauves’ (wild beasts) in disapproval. Indeed, Vauxcelles went so far as to describe the artists behind the movement as ‘youngsters’ and the movement itself ‘dangerous’.

1. Stuckism Art Movement

Stuckism Art Movement

Stuckism is an art movement that promotes figurative painting instead of conceptual art and was founded in 1999 by Charles Thomson and Billy Childish. The name for the movement came when Childish’s girlfriend insulted him by saying that his art was “stuck, stuck, stuck.” Stuckists strongly believe that art is more than just dead animals and beds and thus oppose to modern art, minimal art, conceptual art and the like.

Stuckists regularly oppose to the Turner Prize by holding demonstrations. On one occasion, they even dressed up as clowns. Over the years, these demonstrations have gained the movement a lot of media coverage. Stuckism has grown into a large, international movement which today has over 187 groups in 45 countries.

Composed by; Laura Martisiute

Adriana John
Adriana John is a talented writer and blogger with a passion for creating top 10 lists on a variety of topics. She enjoys exploring new ideas and sharing her insights with her readers in a fun and engaging way. Through her writing, Adriana aims to inspire and entertain her audience while providing them with valuable information and knowledge. She is dedicated to delivering high-quality content that leaves a lasting impression on her readers.

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