Below are biographies and analysis of the work of the artists who were central to Abstract Expressionism. If a major artist is missing from the list, The Art Story has not had a chance yet to research their life and art.
Josef Albers was a German-born American painter and teacher. Celebrated as a geometric abstractionist and influential instructor at Black Mountain College, Albers directly influenced such artists as Rauschenberg, Twombly and Ray Johnson.
Romare Bearden celebrated the black American experience, which he integrated into greater American modernism. He found his own voice by creating collages made up of cut and torn photographs found in popular magazines that he then reassembled into visually powerful statements.
Elaine de Kooning was an important Abstract Expressionist painter and collagist whose work combines gestural energy with formalist investigations. She was married to the famous New York painter Willem de Kooning.
Willem de Kooning, a Dutch immigrant to New York, was one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters. His abstract compositions drew on Surrealist and figurative traditions, and typified the expressionistic 'gestural' style of the New York School.
Painter, sculptor and poet Robert De Niro, Sr. was a substantial contributor to post-war American art for his dedication to
painterly representation. Vivid, innovative, and representational work distinguished De Niro as a distinct
figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement.
Richard Diebenkorn was an American painter who helped pioneer the California-based movement of Abstract Expressionism, and later the Bay Area Figurative Movement. In all his work, Diebenkorn used the natural environment as his chief inspiration and applied soft, naturalistic color fields to the canvas.
Arshile Gorky was an Armenian-born American painter and was a major influence on the development of Abstract Expressionism. In his own art he fused elements of Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism, and was close with key figures central to New York's burgeoning abstrct art scene, such as John Graham, Stuart Davis and Willem de Kooning.
John Graham was a Russian-born American painter and a key figure in the development of Abstract Expressionism. Never adopting a singular style in his own art, Graham tutored many young abstract artists on the tenets of Cubism and Surrealism, of which he was an expert. Willem de Kooning credited Graham as the person who discovered Jackson Pollock.
Philip Guston was a Canadian painter during the 20th century. Initially associated with the New York School of abstract art, Guston famously abandoned pure abstraction in the 1950s and turned to figurative art and quasi-abstract cartoon imagery. His later work, for which he is best known, was a major influence on the development of Neo-Expressionism in the U.S.
Grace Hartigan was an American painter and an important figure among the second generation of Abstract Expressionists. Her paintings are characterized by their rich color and bold mixture of abstract and figurative styles.
German-born American painter, art teacher and theorist. Hofmann matured as an artist in 1904-14 in Paris, where he met many of the greatest artists of that time. After he emigrated to America in the early 1930s he enjoyed a prominent career as a teacher, powerfully influencing many Abstract Expressionists with his understanding of European modernism.
Franz Kline was an American abstract painter and one of the pioneers of Abstract Expressionism. His signature black-and-white abstractions were inspired by Japanese calligraphy, and inspired a later generation of artists who created Minimalism.
Lee Krasner was an American abstract painter and a prominent first-generation Abstract Expressionist. A student of Hans Hofmann's, and a pioneer in the all-over technique of painting that later influenced color-field artists such as Frankenthaler, Louis, and her husband Jackson Pollock.
Ibram Lassaw was an American abstract sculptor, associated with multiple movements such as Cubism, Surrealism and Constructivism. Lassaw's sculpture famously incorporated mixed metals, intricately woven to create what many perceived as abstract paintings in three dimensions.
Norman Lewis, a leading African-American painter, was an important member of the Abstract Expressionism movement, who also used representational strategies to focus on black urban life and his community's struggles. Lewis's work is characterized by the duality of abstraction and representation in the depiction of both the city and natural world, and expressing both righteous anger and joyous celebration.
Conrad Marca-Relli was a Boston-born painter and sculptor who belonged to the early generation of New York School Abstract Expressionist artists. Marca-Relli made a critical breakthrough with large-scale collage paintings that frequently drew inspiration from the human form to create abstract compositions of interlocking curves and angles.
Roberto Matta was a Chilean-born artist who lived and worked in New York in the 1940s. His interest in automatism and painterly effects helped forge a crucial link between Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism.
Joan Mitchell was a leading second-generation Abstract Expressionist who painted large works of gestural marks and overlapping, roiled color areas. She was famous for her acerbic personality, and her later work often earns comparison with the late painterly style of Impressionist Claude Monet.
Robert Motherwell was a first-generation Abstract Expressionist whose paintings use hulking shapes, large-scale strokes and calligraphy, and wide expanses of muted color. Eloquent and well-educated, he wrote extensively on theories of art.
Louise Nevelson was a Russian-born American artist who worked in the WPA and was a member of the Abstract Expressionist scene. She is best known for her black-painted constructions of assembled crates, boxes, headboards, and other wooden materials.
Barnett Newman was an Abstract Expressonist painter in New York who painted large-scale fields of solid color, interrupted by vertical lines or "zips." His sometimes narrow or boxy canvases, part painting and part sculpture, were influential for Minimalism.
Jackson Pollock was the most well-known Abstract Expressionist and the key example of Action Painting. His work ranges from Jungian scenes of primitive rites to the purely abstract "drip paintings" of his later career.
Richard Pousette-Dart's early work, marked by thick black contour lines and primitive themes, gave way to a freer abstract style in the 1940s, and to light-infused, pointillist paintings in the 1950s and 60s. Although initially associated with the classic Abstract Expressionist angst, his work maintained a more transcendent and positive quality to it, increasingly focused on the expression of spiritual ideals in paint and color.
Ad Reinhardt was an American abstract artist whose monochromatic canvases show side-by-side rectangles painted in subtle variations of the same color. Very much part of the New York scene in the 1940s, he nonetheless scorned the label and gestural ethos of Abstract Expressionism.
David Smith was an American artist who combined Surrealism and formal abstraction in his sculptures. His early works, small and with a craft-like aesthetic, give way later on to giant constructions of welded and burnished steel.