I'm looking for a word for an artwork that was made exclusively to express an idea of the artist without him or her trying to tailor it to a specific audience.

The word abstract comes close because abstract paintings are usually not made for a specific client, but a painting of a landscape could also fit the description above.

Another word I've considered is un-commissioned art. This word comes very close, but the meaning seems more like no-one paid for this rather than it was an original idea by the artist.

The Dutch sentence I'm translating from is Vrij werk which literally translates to Free work. In English this would be interpreted as art one doesn't have to pay for (free) which isn't the meaning I'm looking for either.

Example sentence: ARTIST is famous for his WORD paintings, which only became highly appreciated and valued after his death. During his life ARTIST made both WORD and NOT-WORD paintings, but his only income came from the NOT-WORD art he occasionally made for noblemen.

  • 1
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:48
  • 1
    Unusual distinction, most famous Renaissance Italian painters worked almost exclusively for clients.
    – user66974
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 15:55
  • 2
    Your own suggestion of un-commissioned seems to be the best fit and IMHO does not suggest the artist was not paid, but that the artist created the painting on a whim, because they wanted to or they thought someone would be prepared to buy it; selling the painting at a later date to an interested buyer.
    – 7caifyi
    Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 16:13
  • Noncomissioned seems like the best option so far. I also thought of independent art, liberal art, or unconstrained art, although those terms do not seem to be regularly used. Commented Nov 25, 2015 at 18:32
  • For the NOT-WORD: "painting on order".
    – Graffito
    Commented Dec 26, 2015 at 0:05

3 Answers 3


Since the restrictive adjective is indeed describing a restriction, the lack of a restriction should be most appropriate.

Pablo's art is eye-catching, especially his commissioned work for MOMA.


One common way to express this idea is to say that the artwork was created "on spec", a shortened form of "on speculation". This sense of the word "spec" is defined by Oxforddictionaries.com as "in the hope of success but without any specific plan or instructions".

That site also gives this example sentence:

I wrote my first book on spec, sent it off to nearly 100 publishers and in six weeks I had my first offer.


How about inspired? Jackson Pollock, for example, didn't have a commission for a drip painting. He was inspired to create this new form.

Pollock did have commissions pre-drip, and worked for the WPA Federal Art Project from 1938 to 1942.

Inspired, from Dictionary.com

aroused, animated, or imbued with the spirit to do something, by or as if by supernatural or divine influence: an inspired poet. 2. resulting from such inspiration : an inspired poem; an inspired plan.

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