It is a common experience to observe that a particular painting—for example, a
still life of apples—makes its subject “more real than it is in reality.” The
apples seem brighter and firmer, they seem to possess an almost self-assertive
character, a kind of heightened reality which neither their real-life models
nor any color photograph can match. Yet if one examines them closely, one sees
that no real-life apple ever looked like that. What is it, then, that the
artist has done? He has created a visual abstraction.
He has performed the process of concept-formation—of isolating and
integrating—but in exclusively visual terms. He has isolated the essential,
distinguishing characteristics of apples, and integrated them into a single
visual unit. He has brought the conceptual method of functioning to the
operations of a single sense organ, the organ of sight.