Introduction to Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism is a mid-20th-century art movement that arose in America, characterized by unconventional techniques and a freedom of expression that rejected traditional forms. In this article, we will explore the definition and characteristics of Abstract Expressionism, the rise of the art movement in post-World War Two America, and some of the artists who contributed to its development.
1. Definition and Characteristics of Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism is an art movement that emerged in America after World War Two.
It is characterized by a disregard for traditional forms and a focus on individual freedom of expression. The movement’s painters turned away from their predecessors’ strict conventions and embraced the transitional qualities of art.
The artists associated with Abstract Expressionism believed that the process of creating art was as important as the finished piece. They sought to express themselves through their work in a way that reflected their personality, emotions, and innermost thoughts.
The art reflects the artist’s attitude towards the work rather than the subject matter. 2.
Rise of Abstract Expressionism in America
Abstract Expressionism came into being in the wake of World War Two, when the confidence of many people had been shaken. The cultural landscape of America was shifting, with New York City emerging as an artistic hub.
Many artists who had fought in World War Two were disillusioned with the society they saw upon their return. New York City became a melting pot for artists with different backgrounds, with many artists meeting in cafes and bars, sharing their ideas and challenging each other to push artistic boundaries.
The city played a significant role in the development of Abstract Expressionism, with many artists working in the region.
Artists who Contributed
to Abstract Expressionism
Clyfford Still, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and “The Irascibles” are some of the most influential artists who contributed to the development of Abstract Expressionism.
Clyfford Still, a painter from Oklahoma, made a major contribution to the development of Abstract Expressionism.
He used large canvases to depict his internal landscapes, often using earthy colours and jagged lines.
Jackson Pollock, who was often dubbed the “drip painter,” became the face of Abstract Expressionism.
Pollock used an unconventional method of dripping and splattering paint onto his canvases, which created an alluring and organic quality.
Willem de Kooning, from Rotterdam, created mythic and conventional images of the human form.
His striking use of colour and energetic brushstrokes have made him one of the most significant figures in Abstract Expressionism. Hans Hofmann, a painter from Germany, played a key role in the evolution of Abstract Expressionism.
He emphasized the importance of perception in the creation of art, arguing that it was a more important factor than the physical representation of the subject.
“The Irascibles” was a group of fourteen artists who wrote a letter to the director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, demanding that the museum hold a display of Abstract Expressionist art.
The Irascibles’ letter was published in The New York Times and became a pivotal moment in the recognition of Abstract Expressionism as a serious art form in America.
Abstract Expressionism represents a defining moment in the history of American art. It signifies a transition from the traditional art forms that came before it to a more personal, expressive style that is still celebrated today.
Through this article, we have learned about the definition and characteristics of Abstract Expressionism, how it emerged in post-World War Two America and why New York City played a central role in its development. We have also explored some of the most influential artists who contributed to its development.
These artists helped to create a movement that celebrated individual expression and has made an indelible mark on the art world.
Abstract Expressionism Definition and Influences
Abstract Expressionism is a mid-20th-century American art style characterized by unconventional techniques, freedom of expression, and rejection of traditional art forms. In this expansion, we will explore the origins of the term “Abstract Expressionism,” the influence of Surrealism on the art movement, and the styles within Abstract Expressionism.
3. Origins of the term “Abstract Expressionism”
The term “Abstract Expressionism” was first used in an article by Robert Coates in the March 30, 1946 issue of Art News.
Coates used the term to describe German Expressionism and its influence on American art. The term came into widespread use to describe the work of American artists who were experimenting with abstract expression in the wake of World War Two.
Many of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism had been influenced by European modernism, including Surrealism. Surrealism, an art movement that emphasized the importance of the subconscious creation, primitivism, and mythology, had a significant impact on the development of Abstract Expressionism.
4. Influence of Surrealism on Abstract Expressionism
The influence of Surrealism on Abstract Expressionism can be seen in the primitivism and mythology that are present in many of its works, as well as the techniques employed.
Both art movements emphasized the use of intuition and spontaneity in the creative process, resulting in works that appear to have been created without conscious thought. Surrealism also emphasized the importance of the subconscious in the creative process, an idea that was incorporated in
to Abstract Expressionism.
The Surrealist movement also influenced the use of symbolism and metaphor in Abstract Expressionism. Many of the works produced during this period depict dreamlike landscapes or mystical, otherworldly scenes that are often imbued with social or political meaning.
5. Styles within Abstract Expressionism
Abstract Expressionism can be divided into two distinct styles: Action Painting and Color Field Painting.
Action Painting is characterized by the physical act of painting, where the artists use impulsiveness to create their works. The process is often described as a performance, with the artists moving around and across the canvas to create their works.
One of the most iconic figures in Action Painting is Jackson Pollock, who used his whole body to create his large, abstract works. Another notable artist who worked in the Action Painting style was Willem de Kooning.
His works often feature bold brushstrokes and layers of paint that create an intense, chaotic effect. Color Field Painting, on the other hand, emphasizes the use of color to create a reflective response in the viewer.
These works feature pure, unmodulated colors that appear to extend into space, with little or no reference to the natural world. The artists associated with this style sought to create a contemplative, spiritual experience for the viewer.
Mark Rothko, one of the most renowned Color Field painters, created works that feature large, rectangular blocks of color that appear to float in space. Rothko sought to create an emotional response in the viewer, and his works are often seen as meditative or spiritual in their effect.
Another artist who worked in this style was Kenneth Noland, who created works that feature concentric circles or stripes of color. Noland’s paintings are known for their luminous quality, and they often evoke a sense of depth and vibrancy.
In conclusion, Abstract Expressionism was a defining moment in the history of American art, characterized by its unconventional techniques and freedom of expression. The movement’s artists sought to express themselves through their works in a way that reflected their personality, emotions, and innermost thoughts.
The influence of Surrealism on the movement can be seen in its use of primitivism and mythology, as well as its emphasis on the subconscious in the creative process. Abstract Expressionism can also be divided into two distinct styles: Action Painting and Color Field Painting, both of which had a profound impact on the art world and continue to inspire and influence artists today.
Notable Abstract Expressionist Paintings and Artists
Abstract Expressionism was a major art movement in the mid-20th century that produced a wide variety of artworks that challenged traditional artistic conventions. In this expansion, we will explore some of the most notable Abstract Expressionist painters and their works.
1. Mark Rothko
Mark Rothko is one of the most celebrated painters of the Color Field Painting style, characterized by the use of pure, unmodulated color to create a reflective response in the viewer.
His most famous work, No. 6 (Violet, Green, Red), is a prime example of this style. The painting consists of three horizontal bands of color, each blending into the next, creating a meditative, contemplative effect.
Rothko’s works often evoke a spiritual or emotional response in the viewer by creating a sense of depth and luminosity that is both mesmerizing and profound. 2.
Clyfford Still is another notable Color Field Painter whose use of color and composition has impacted the art world. His work 1957-D-No.1 is a perfect example of his style, which featured large areas of color applied in bold brushstrokes.
His paintings often incorporate jagged edges, giving them a sense of dynamism and movement. The use of color and composition in Still’s work blends the conventional and unconventional to produce strikingly unique pieces that are both visually captivating and emotionally riveting.
3. Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning was an American-Dutch Abstract Expressionist painter who is best known for his gestural brushwork and his work Excavation.
In this painting, de Kooning used sweeping brushstrokes and bold colors to create a sense of shifting planes and multiple perspectives. The use of gestural brushwork in his work creates a sense of energy and motion that is both electrifying and fluid.
De Kooning’s bold, dynamic use of color and his gestural brushwork style helped to create a new, energetic and raw form of Abstract Expressionist painting unlike anything seen before. 4.
Barnett Newman was an American painter who was an active participant in the Abstract Expressionist movement. He is best known for his painting Vir Heroicus Sublimis, which features a large field of color with a vertical line (a zip) running through it.
Newman’s use of the vertical line (which he called a “zip”) draws the viewer’s attention toward the top of the painting and creates a sense of a vast and infinite space. The use of vertical lines and large fields of vivid color creates a powerful, iconic effect that imbues Newman’s paintings with an imposing presence and sense of drama.
5. Norman Lewis
Norman Lewis was an African-American Abstract Expressionist painter and one of the first black artists to achieve national recognition for his work.
His painting Evening Rendezvous is a striking piece that features a range of complementary colors like red, white, and blue. The use of these patriotic colors gives the work a sense of both joy and energy, while also confronting traditional racial boundaries.
Lewis’s work demonstrates how, even while working within a particular movement, an artist can use personal expression to challenge and subvert societal norms. 6.
Franz Kline was an American Abstract Expressionist painter who is best known for his large, gestural paintings that featured bold black and white contrasts. His painting Chief demonstrates his signature style, which features sweeping black brushstrokes against a white background.
The striking imagery of the painting, which is reminiscent of a totem pole or a tribal mask, creates a sense of raw and powerful energy that Kline was famous for. Kline’s dynamic brushstrokes and bold contrasts combine to create a painting that is both evocative and powerful.
7. Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock was perhaps one of the most famous artists associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement, known for his pioneering drip painting technique.
In his painting Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Pollock used his signature technique to create a sprawling and dynamic canvas that appears to be endlessly shifting and changing. The results of his technique are often characterized by their chaotic, seemingly random patterns and results, which pushed the boundaries of abstraction still further.
Abstract Expressionism is an expansive art movement that produced a wide variety of artworks that challenged traditional artistic conventions. This expansion has explored notable painters such as Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Norman Lewis, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock, along with some of their most important works.
Each artist used their unique style to push the boundaries of the movement, creating distinct and memorable works that continue to inspire artists and audiences alike. Abstract Expressionism played a crucial role in the mid-20th century art world, challenging conventional artistic norms and pushing the boundaries of expression.
The movement was defined by its rejection of traditional forms and its emphasis on individual freedom and emotional expression. Notable artists such as Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Norman Lewis, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollock each contributed their unique styles and techniques to the movement, leaving lasting impressions on the art world.
The importance of Abstract Expressionism lies in its ability to inspire and provoke thought, reminding us of the power of personal expression and the limitless possibilities of art. The audacity and innovation of these artists serve as a testament to the enduring impact of Abstract Expressionism and its enduring legacy in the realm of artistic expression.