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Abstract Expressionism Collage

Abstract Expressionism

Started: 1943

Ended: Late 1965

Abstract Expressionism Timeline

Quotes

"To us, art is an adventure into an unknown world of the imagination, which is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense."
Adolf Gottlieb, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko
"Freeing ourselves of the obsolete props of an outmoded and antiquated legend .. freeing ourselves from the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, and myth that have been the devices of Western European painting."
Barnett Newman
"Where the Old Masters created an illusion of space into which one could imagine walking, the illusion created by a Modernist is one into which one can look, can travel through, only with the eye."
Clement Greenberg
"At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act - rather than as a space in which to reproduce, re-design, analyze, or 'express' an object, actual or imagined. What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event."
Harold Rosenberg

KEY ARTISTS

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
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Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning
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Mark RothkoMark Rothko
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Clyfford StillClyfford Still
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Franz KlineFranz Kline
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Hans HofmannHans Hofmann
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"It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academic painting. However, there is no such thing as good painting about nothing."

Mark Rothko Signature

Synopsis

"Abstract Expressionism" was never an ideal label for the movement, which developed in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. It was somehow meant to encompass not only the work of painters who filled their canvases with fields of color and abstract forms, but also those who attacked their canvases with a vigorous gestural expressionism. Still Abstract Expressionism has become the most accepted term for a group of artists who held much in common. All were committed to art as expressions of the self, born out of profound emotion and universal themes, and most were shaped by the legacy of Surrealism, a movement that they translated into a new style fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma. In their success, these New York painters robbed Paris of its mantle as leader of modern art, and set the stage for America's dominance of the international art world.

Key Ideas

Political instability in Europe in the 1930s brought several leading Surrealists to New York, and many of the Abstract Expressionists were profoundly influenced by Surrealism's focus on mining the unconscious. It encouraged their interest in myth and archetypal symbols and it shaped their understanding of painting itself as a struggle between self-expression and the chaos of the subconscious.
Most of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism matured in the 1930s. They were influenced by the era's leftist politics, and came to value an art grounded in personal experience. Few would maintain their earlier radical political views, but many continued to adopt the posture of outspoken avant-gardists.
Having matured as artists at a time when America suffered economically and felt culturally isolated and provincial, the Abstract Expressionists were later welcomed as the first authentically American avant-garde. Their art was championed for being emphatically American in spirit - monumental in scale, romantic in mood, and expressive of a rugged individual freedom.
Although the movement has been largely depicted throughout historical documentation as one belonging to the paint-splattered, heroic male artist, there were several important female Abstract Expressionists that arose out of New York and San Francisco during the 1940s and '50s who now receive credit as elemental members of the canon.

Beginnings

Abstract Expressionism Image

It is one of the many paradoxes of Abstract Expressionism that the roots of the movement lay in the figurative painting of the 1930s. Almost all the artists who would later become abstract painters in New York in the 1940s and 1950s were stamped by the experience of the Great Depression, and they came to maturity whilst painting in styles influenced by Social Realism and the Regionalist movements. By the late 1940s most had left those styles behind, but they learned much from their early work. It encouraged them in their commitment to an art based on personal experience. Time spent painting murals would later encourage them to create abstract paintings on a similarly monumental scale. The experience of working for the government-sponsored Works Progress Administration also brought many disparate figures together, and this would make it easier for them to band together again in the late 1940s and early 1950s when the new style was being promoted.

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Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Movement Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by The Art Story Contributors
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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