If one considers abstraction as the transformation of complex visual stimuli into clear lines or a series of edges or pattern of values on a surface, or the predominance of abstract patterns produced for centuries in tile, textiles, and wood, then abstraction has been with us for the entire history of art.
The very nature of putting something down on a two-dimensional surface inherently involves an abstraction. Look closely at a Rembrandt drawing as he finds fascinating graphic equivalents for what he wants to represent out there “in the world.”
Or one could ask: What could be more abstract than a pixellated black and white photograph?
Though the very nature of putting something down on a two-dimensional surface inherently involves abstraction, it took awhile for painting to realize a completely abstract image, and the significance of doing so.