What is Abstract Expressionism? In Abstract Expressionism the artist creates work
using purely colour and form. It is non representational and no objects are actually
illustrated. The term was used to describe the work of Wassily Kandinsky in the early
part of the 20th Century.
Now however it is generally associated with the movement originating in New York,
America in 1946. It is considered to be the one important art movement that the USA
gave to the world.
Shown left Jackson Pollock, Action Painting
Abstract Expressionism is often split into two categories. Firstly: Action Painting,
typified by the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky.
Colour Field Painting practised by Mark Rothco and Kenneth Noland and others, which
consisted of exploring non geometric blocks of colour on canvas.
Shown below Arshille
Arshile Gorky was an Armenian born American painter who had a major influence on
the movement. De Kooning said: "I met a lot of artists — but then I met Gorky...
He had an extraordinary gift for hitting the nail on the head; remarkable. So I immediately
attached myself to him and we became very good friends."
Some say the only real connection between the groups is not actually their art but
their artistic philosophy. They expounded this in a magazine called Tigers Eye which
helped to keep their work in the public eye and spread their philosophy.
Abstract Expressionism was characterised by large canvases which used the all over
painting technique. As the name suggests the canvas was painted all over, the crucial
difference here being that each part of the canvas was as important as the next.
There was no traditional focal point in the centre or anywhere else for that matter.
Major influences were surrealism and existentialism. Surrealists desired to use the
subconscious to create automatic art. In automatic art or automatism, the subconscious
directed the hand of the artists without reference to their conscious mind. Existentialism
favoured the creation of an artwork rather than the finished artwork itself. The
Abstract Expressionists were inspired by retrospectives of the work of Miro and Kandinsky.
One of the reasons it gained favour was thought to be political. In the USA there
was major censorship of the arts generally during the McCarthy era of the 50’s. This
abstract art though had no subject and was therefore seen as apolitical and deemed
Moving away from purely abstract work, Willem de Kooning completed Woman III, in
1953. shown left
It was sold by collector David Geffen to fellow art lover Stephen A Cohen for a remarkable137.5
million dollars in 2006. Making it, at the time, the second most expensive painting
ever sold. Joining what, at the time of writing, is still the very exclusive club
of paintings sold for over One Million Dollars.
Abstract Expressionism produced some of the most memorable artwork of the 20th Century.
As an art movement it has left a legacy of some truly creative and original paintings.
Abstract Expressionist paintings are amongst the best selling prints, posters and
canvases gracing living rooms, bedrooms and offices the world over. We hope you’ve
enjoyed our facts about Abstract Expressionism and we’ve inspired you to own some
Abstract Expressionist art for yourself.
Shown Top left Arshille Gorky, Abstraction with a palette
Shown Top Right, Yellow and Gold by Mark Rothco
Started in 1946 in post war New York.
It is considered to be the one important art movement that the USA gave to the world.
Abstract Expressionism can be divided into Action Painting and Colour Field painting
Action Painting practised by American Jackson Pollock, Armenian born Arshile Gorky,
and Dutch / American
Willem de Kooning
Colour Field Painting practised by
Artists were linked together more by their philosophy than their style of painting
Willem de Kooning’s 1953 work, Woman III, was sold for a staggering 137.5 million
dollars in 2006
Influenced by Surrealism and Existentialism
Abstract and seen as apolitical so escaped censorship during the post war McCarthy
period in America, allowing it to become mainstream
Characterised by large canvases and all over painting where each part was as important
as the next with no traditional focal point
10 fast and fab facts about Abstract Expressionism ?