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Art History Resources: (Artists, Art Movements, Biographies, Artwork)

Art History: Abstract Expressionism: (1940 - 1955)

Abstract Expressionism emphasized the depiction of emotions rather than objects. Most painters of the movement favored large canvasses, dramatic colors, and loose brushwork. The movement originated in New Yorkís Greenwich Village in the mid-1940ís and was also called action painting and the New York School. Emphasizing its independence from European art trends, Abstract Expressionism was the first American school to influence artists over seas rather than vice versa. The movement was put into motion by Arshile Gorky whose paintings were derived from the art of Surrealism, Picasso, and Miro. As in Surrealism, the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung provided the basis for the intellectual and internal subject matter. Their influence came from many of the artists who fled Europe for American during World War II, notably Piet Mondrian and Max Ernst. These artists?departure from traditional painting inspired the revolutionary attitude of the Abstract Expressionist movement. Abstract Expressionism held prominence until the development of Pop Art in the 1960ís. The movement allowed New York to replace Paris as the center of the art world.

Although Abstract Expressionism encompassed an array of stylistic approaches, several unifying themes were present in the movement. Abstract Expressionist paintings consisted of shapes, lines, and forms meant to create a separate reality from the visual world. Technically, most abstract expressionists paid attention to the surface quality and texture and used large canvases. Abstract Expressionists wished to emphasize the accident and chance in their work, but often highly planned their execution. So, mistakes that did occur during the painting process were used to the artistís advantage. Arshile Gorky and Hans Hoffman were integral in calling artists?attention to the physicality of paint and the potential for expression in abstraction. The two major types of Abstract Expressionism are Action Painting and Color Field Painting. Action painters such as Jackson Pollock wished to portray paint texture and the movement of the artistís hand. Color Field painters such as Mark Rothko were concerned with color and shape in order to create peaceful and spiritual paintings with no representative subject matter.

Abstract Expressionists saw painting as a pure expression of emotion and means of visual communication. Not all Abstract Expressionist work was abstract and expressive, although the movement is united in its spontaneous release of unconscious creativity. The act of painting is considered as important as the finished product itself.

The philosophy of Abstract Expressionism searches for answers to the questions of human existence. It addresses personal psychological battles, the external struggle between man and nature, and the hunt for spiritual comfort. All of these concepts were expressed through abstraction, finding meaning in relating the act of painting with a release of subconscious feelings and desires. The movement had a profound impact on later generations of American artists, particularly in their use of color and materials.

Artists: (biography & artworks) Related Paintings Reproductions

Baziotes, William - 1912 - 1963
Bourgeois, Louise - 1911 -
Burri, Alberto - 1915 - 1995
Bush, Jack - 1909 - 1977
de Kooning, Elaine Fried - 1920 - 1989
De Kooning, Willem - 1904 - 1997
Dubuffet, Jean - 1901 - 1985
Francis, Sam - 1923 - 1994
Frankenthaler, Helen - 1928 -
Gorky, Arshile - 1904 - 1948
Gottlieb, Adolph - 1903 - 1974
Guston, Philip - 1913 - 1980
Held, Al - 1928 -
Hoffmann, Josef - -
Hofmann, Hans - 1880 - 1966
Kline, Franz - 1910 - 1962
Lewis, Norman - 1909 - 1979
Louis, Morris - 1912 - 1962
Motherwell, Robert - 1915 - 1991
Nevelson, Louise - 1899 - 1988
Newman, Barnett - 1905 - 1970
Noland, Kenneth - 1924 -
Olitski, Jules - 1922 -
Pepi, Vincent - 1926 -
Pollock, Jackson - 1912 - 1956
Ronald, William - 1926 -
Rothko, Mark - 1903 - 1970
Scott, William - 1913 - 1989
Scully, Sean - 1945 -
Siskind, Aaron - 1903 - 1991
Smith, David - 1906 - 1965
Still, Clyfford - 1904 - 1980
Tobey, Mark - 1890 - 1976
Weber, Max - 1881 - 1961

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