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Hard-edge Painting Collage

Hard-edge Painting

Started: 1959

Ended: Early 1970s

Hard-edge Painting Timeline

Important Art and Artists of Hard-edge Painting

The below artworks are the most important in Hard-edge Painting - that both overview the major ideas of the movement, and highlight the greatest achievements by each artist in Hard-edge Painting. Don't forget to visit the artist overview pages of the artists that interest you.

Karl Benjamin: Black Pillars (1957)
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Black Pillars (1957)

Artist: Karl Benjamin

Artwork description & Analysis: Considered one of Benjamin's signature paintings, Black Pillars has won new renown after becoming a centerpiece of the recent traveling exhibition Birth of the Cool, organized by the Orange County Museum of Art. Benjamin's use of somber blues, his sleek forms and shadow play are now considered emblematic of post-war American style. Although some of Benjamin's color forms in Black Pillars recall the form of old television screens, the artist was doing nothing more than playing with opposing colors and forms to create a visually engaging picture.

Oil on canvas - Private collection

Frederick Hammersley: Opposing #15 (1959)
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Opposing #15 (1959)

Artist: Frederick Hammersley

Artwork description & Analysis: Hammersley's Opposing #15 contains the visual symmetry often associated with post-painterly abstraction and Color Field Painting, but it lacks any sort of color interaction or balance. Hammersley pitted contrasting colors (mainly primaries) against each other, along with basic geometric forms that seem to have no business interacting. The end result displays one of the defining characteristics of many hard-edge paintings, which was the presence of rich and saturated color, clean lines, and flat surface, and a disregard for relationships between the colors that comprise the painting. All this suggests the shift in interests that took place as Color Field Painting ceded to Post-painterly abstraction; preoccupation with the expressive power of color gave way to interest in optical phenomena.

Oil on linen - Collection of Jayne and Mark Murrel, Newport Beach, CA

Lorser Feitelson: Dichotomic Organization (1959)
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Dichotomic Organization (1959)

Artist: Lorser Feitelson

Artwork description & Analysis: Feitelson's Dichotomic Organization could be called a hard-edged interpretation of a Clyfford Still painting. The sharp color forms and hot-vs.-cold themes recall Still's own brand of Color Field Painting, while Feitelson's sense of dimension all make this a very unique work in the catalog of hard-edge paintings of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Jules Langsner once referred to Feitelson's work as containing "nothing ambiguous or fuzzily subjective." In other words, Langsner perceived Feitelson to be an artist with a stunningly clear vision, which was to create captivating art without any indication of the artist's perspective.

Oil on canvas - Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art, Logan, Utah

John McLaughlin: Y-1957 (1957)
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Y-1957 (1957)

Artist: John McLaughlin

Artwork description & Analysis: Although generally hard to gauge, McLaughlin may be the least well known of the four abstract classicists, or California hard-edge painters. While having no signature style of his own, McLaughlin was a master colorist and composer of minimalist nonobjective paintings. His Y-1957 was among the early hard-edge works (although the term "hard-edge" has yet to be coined) that caught the attention of Langsner and prompted him to gather like-minded artists in an effort to highlight this new phase in West coast-based abstract painting. This simple stripe painting not only subtly played with the fundamentals of visual symmetry, but also predated the more well-known stripe paintings of Kenneth Noland.

Oil on canvas - Gary Snyder Fine Art, New York

Frank Stella: Hyena Stomp (1962)
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Hyena Stomp (1962)

Artist: Frank Stella

Artwork description & Analysis: Stella was among the New York-based hard-edge painters who caught the attention of Jewish Museum director Alan Solomon, who would later curate the well-received Second-Generation Abstraction in 1963. Hyena Stomp is typical of his move towards color after his famous emergence with the Black Paintings. It balances four converging forms to suggest a complex prism of color; upon closer inspection one notices that the painting is completely asymmetrical.

Oil on canvas - Tate Gallery, London

Robert Irwin: Untitled (1969)
Artwork Images

Untitled (1969)

Artist: Robert Irwin

Artwork description & Analysis: Robert Irwin was not associated with the original group of California hard-edge painters, but the breadth of his early work indicates a loose kinship with their stunningly simple compositions. Irwin's disc series, which includes the above untitled work, played with subtle degrees of light and perspective. What he achieved with these works was to take the components of hard-edge and post-painterly (art composed of basic shapes, colors, lines and geometric forms) and re-interpret them within a three-dimensional space. Untitled also took the tenets of Color Field Painting, wherein colors interact and cover an entire space, and re-interpreted it so that people were now interacting with the shapes, lines, and form of the artwork itself.

Acrylic lacquer on formed acrylic plastic disc - Collection of the artist

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Related Art and Artists

Mark Rothko: No. 6 (Violet, Green, Red) (1951)
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No. 6 (Violet, Green, Red) (1951)

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Artist: Mark Rothko

Artwork description & Analysis: Mark Rothko's work exemplifies Abstract Expressionism's Color Field paintings. Each piece is titled by color variations, and all consist of soft, rectangular bands of color stretching horizontally across the canvas. Violet, Green and Red is a prime example of this kind of chromatic abstraction.

Color Field painters were concerned with brushstroke and paint texture, but they came to view color as the most powerful communication tool. Rothko's blocks of color were meant to strike up a relationship with the viewer's deep consciousness, to provide a contemplative, meditative space in which to visually investigate one's own moods and affiliations with the chosen palette. He sought to distill an essence, or true nature, out of codified hues. Along with his friend, the painter Adolph Gottlieb, Rothko wrote a series of statements in 1943 to explain his work. In one, they wrote: "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought."

Oil on canvas - Private collection

Kenneth Noland: Cycle (1960)
Artwork Images

Cycle (1960)

Movement: Post-Painterly Abstraction

Artist: Kenneth Noland

Artwork description & Analysis: One of Noland's signature series of paintings was the Target paintings, which for him also doubled as his own brand of Color Field Painting and geometric abstraction. In Cycle Noland created something particularly uncomplicated and, in fact, the near opposite of the Color Field style. Cycle's central target is entirely surrounded by bare canvas; a compositional decision also made by fellow painter Morris Louis. What Noland achieved with this painting was most likely what Greenberg had in mind when he wrote about the post-painterly rejection of the "doctrine" of Abstract Expressionism. By creating a strikingly simple geometric form and emphasizing more canvas than paint, Noland was definitely moving beyond the visual confines of freeform abstract painting.

Acrylic on canvas - The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.

Frank Stella: The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1870-1970 (1970)
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The Metropolitan Museum of Art 1870-1970 (1970)

Movement: Color Field Painting

Artist: Frank Stella

Artwork description & Analysis: By 1970, Color Field artists like Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland and the late Morris Louis had long established their style as the next phase in modern abstraction. Stella in particular was best known for his Color Field spectrums, in which bands of varying colors were situated in such a way as to render the canvas a three-dimensional field of pure color. What made these paintings unique, and thus a distinctive characteristic of most Color Field work, was the absence of any representation or figurative forms. In Metropolitan Museum of Art 1870-1970, commissioned by the museum for its 100th anniversary, Stella carefully balanced alternating color bands to create a visual plane and framed this plane within a field of primary blue.

Color offset lithograph poster - Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

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Content compiled and written by Justin Wolf

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

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