abstract expressionism

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abstract expressionism,

movement of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the mid-1940s and attained singular prominence in American art in the following decade; also called action painting and the New York school. It was the first important school in American painting to declare its independence from European styles and to influence the development of art abroad. Arshile GorkyGorky, Arshile
, c.1900–48, American painter, b. Armenia as Vosdanig Adoian. He escaped the Turkish slaughter of Armenians, emigrated to the United States in 1920, studied at Boston's New School of Design, and moved to New York City in 1925.
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 first gave impetus to the movement. His paintings, derived at first from the art of PicassoPicasso, Pablo
(Pablo Ruiz y Picasso) , 1881–1973, Spanish painter, sculptor, graphic artist, and ceramist, who worked in France. He is generally considered in his technical virtuosity, enormous versatility, and incredible originality and prolificity to have been the
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, MiróMiró, Joan
, 1893–1983, Spanish surrealist painter. After studying in Barcelona, Miró went to Paris in 1919. In the 1920s he came into contact with cubism and surrealism.
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, and surrealismsurrealism
, literary and art movement influenced by Freudianism and dedicated to the expression of imagination as revealed in dreams, free of the conscious control of reason and free of convention.
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, became more personally expressive.

Jackson PollockPollock, Jackson,
1912–56, American painter, b. Cody, Wyo. He studied (1929–31) in New York City, mainly under Thomas Hart Benton, but he was more strongly influenced by A. P. Ryder and the Mexican muralists, especially Siqueiros.
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's turbulent yet elegant abstract paintings, which were created by spattering paint on huge canvases placed on the floor, brought abstract expressionism before a hostile public. Willem de Kooningde Kooning, Willem
, 1904–97, American painter, b. Netherlands; studied Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. De Kooning immigrated to the United States, arriving as a stowaway in 1926 and settling in New York City, where he worked on the Federal Arts Project
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's first one-man show in 1948 established him as a highly influential artist. His intensely complicated abstract paintings of the 1940s were followed by images of Woman, grotesque versions of buxom womanhood, which were virtually unparalleled in the sustained savagery of their execution. Painters such as Philip GustonGuston, Philip,
1913–80, American painter, b. Montreal. Guston emigrated to the United States in 1916. His earliest role models as an artist were such Mexican muralists as José Orozco and David Siqueiros; he later made nonobjective murals with Jackson Pollock and
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 and Franz KlineKline, Franz,
1910–62, American painter, b. Wilkes-Barre, Pa. He studied (1937–38) in England, then settled in New York City. His first works were representational, often portraying the industrial landscapes of Pennsylvania's coal and steel towns.
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 turned to the abstract late in the 1940s and soon developed strikingly original styles—the former, lyrical and evocative, the latter, forceful and boldly dramatic. Other important artists involved with the movement included Hans HofmannHofmann, Hans,
1880–1966, American painter, b. Germany. After earning a considerable reputation as a teacher in Munich, Hofmann moved permanently to the United States in 1930.
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, Robert MotherwellMotherwell, Robert,
1915–91, American painter and writer, b. Aberdeen, Wash. Motherwell taught art at several colleges and during the early 1940s he became a cogent theoretician of abstract expressionism.
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, and Mark RothkoRothko, Mark
, 1903–70, American painter, b. Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia), as Marcus Rotkovitch. His family immigrated to the United States in 1913. He was a student of Max Weber, then came under the influence of the surrealists.
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; among other major abstract expressionists were such painters as Clyfford StillStill, Clyfford,
1904–80, American painter, b. Grandin, N.Dak. A brilliant painter, he was one of the founders of abstract expressionism, although never one of the style's best-known practitioners. The reclusive Still was a pioneer in the use of the mural-sized canvas.
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, Theodoros StamosStamos, Theodoros
, 1920–97, American painter, b. New York City. Allied with the New York school of the 1960s (see modern art), Stamos drew much of his inspiration from Asian mysticism.
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, Adolph GottliebGottlieb, Adolph,
1903–74, American painter, b. New York City. Gottlieb studied under John Sloan and Robert Henri. In the 1940s he created pictographs which were stylized, primitive symbols set in a gridlike pattern. His abstract dynamic canvases of the following decade (e.
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, Helen FrankenthalerFrankenthaler, Helen
, 1928–2011, American painter, b. New York City. A member of abstract expressionism's second generation, Frankenthaler was greatly influenced by Jackson Pollock, with whom she studied.
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, Lee KrasnerKrasner, Lee
, 1911–84, American artist, b. Brooklyn. She studied with Hans Hofmann and became a leading figure in abstract expressionism along with her husband, Jackson Pollock.
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, and Esteban Vicente.

Abstract expressionism presented a broad range of stylistic diversity within its largely, though not exclusively, nonrepresentational framework. For example, the expressive violence and activity in paintings by de Kooning or Pollock marked the opposite end of the pole from the simple, quiescent images of Mark Rothko. Basic to most abstract expressionist painting were the attention paid to surface qualities, i.e., qualities of brushstroke and texture; the use of huge canvases; the adoption of an approach to space in which all parts of the canvas played an equally vital role in the total work; the harnessing of accidents that occurred during the process of painting; the glorification of the act of painting itself as a means of visual communication; and the attempt to transfer pure emotion directly onto the canvas. The movement had an inestimable influence on the many varieties of work that followed it, especially in the way its proponents used color and materials. Its essential energy transmitted an enduring excitement to the American art scene.


See M. Seuphor, Abstract Painting (1962, repr. 1964); I. Sandler, The Triumph of American Painting (1970); M. Tuchman, ed., The New York School (rev. ed. 1970); D. Ashton, The Unknown Shore (1962) and The New York School (1973); S. Guilbaut, How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art (1983); W. C. Seitz, Abstract Expressionist Painting in America (1983); F. Frascina, ed., Pollock and After (1985); D. Anfam, Abstract Expressionism (1990); S. Polcari, Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience (1991); A. E. Gibson, Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics (1997); D. Craven, Abstract Expressionism as Cultural Critique (1999).

References in periodicals archive ?
Abstract Expressionism was, in fact, a representational abstraction, a paradoxical sign of an infinite, ethereal Otherness that surpasses earthly burden and yet, through acts of heroic sublimity, could be pictured.
Abstract Expressionism was very unusual and therefore difficult for most people to understand.
I see many students producing a pseudo-type of Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism.
O'Hara was everywhere: uptown at jazz clubs, downtown in artists' lofts, the prismatic center of a city that was transitioning from the macho bravado of abstract expressionism to the wilier imperatives of pop art.
Purchased with funds provided by Tom and Gretchen Holce of Portland, the collection includes works by some of the most important American artists from the Abstract Expressionism, Color Field, and Post-Painterly Abstraction movements of the 1950s and 1960s: Jackson Pollock, Hans Hofmann, David Smith, Helen Frankenthaler, Friedel Dzubas, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, Anthony Caro, and others.
Abstract expressionism and other modern works; the Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Over the past few years he was conceptualizing, with William Agee, a show called "New American Art of the 1940s and 1950s," a vast survey of more than two hundred artists that aimed to widen the definition of Abstract Expressionism just as most art historians are busy narrowing it down.
He also sought to de-mythologize '50s New York as a place where artists were forced to chose between either the macho bravado of abstract expressionism or the bratty irreverence of pop art.
Published in conjunction with a major exhibition, which opened in Berlin, this is a European perspective of American art that provides a unique view of the development of American Realism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art and Minimalism.
The chronologically arranged prints display his mastery of and devotion to realism through the era of Abstract Expressionism, and text discusses topics such as his absorption of European influences, critical reactions to his work, his fascination with architecture, and his struggle in his last years to produce original works.
The '80s saw the rise of neo-expressionism--a response to those initially reacting to the raw, emotive canvases of Abstract Expressionism.
This tendency was reinforced by the nationalistic thrust of 20th-century Mexican culture, just as abstract expressionism in the United States declared its independence from Europe.