1.6.8 Abstract Expressionism (1940s…)

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QUICK LINKS:
Seated Woman, de Kooning
Painting 1944 No 2, Still
Self-Portrait in Olive and Brown, Beckmann
Figure in a Landscape, Bacon
Number 5, 1948, Pollock
Number 8, Pollock
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), Pollock
Woman I, de Kooning
One Number 31, Pollock
Blue Nude II, Matisse
Girl with a White Dog, Freud
Woman III, de Kooning

Marilyn Monroe, de Kooning
Interchange, de Kooning
Police Gazette, de Kooning
Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’, Fontana
Noël, Mitchell
Daisy in the Garden, Weight
Homage to the Square, Albers
George Dyer Talking, Bacon
Black Series I, Stella
Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, Bearden
Straw, Mitchell
Reflection, Freud
The Family, Rego

Abstract expressionism is the term applied to new forms of abstract art developed by American painters such as Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning in the 1940s and 1950s. It is often characterised by gestural brush-strokes or mark-making, and the impression of spontaneity

[1680-10]

de Kooning’s first paintings of women, a subject that preoccupied him throughout his career, were begun as early as 1938. By adopting this subject, de Kooning was identifying himself with a long-standing artistic tradition.

Yet, by approaching the theme in a contemporary manner, he was challenging the established masters on their own ground.
During the 1940s, de Kooning, who was fascinated by the human form, used to visit New York’s Metropolitan Museum to copy portraits by the 19th-century French academic artist J.A.D. Ingres.

However, his own vision was markedly more modern than Ingres’. Here, the woman’s arms, legs, and breasts are presented as abstract shapes in a flattened space. In addition, the composition illustrates de Kooning’s interest in portraying nature as both creative and destructive. Thus his arrangement of form, line, and colour gives the impression of a body simultaneously coming together and falling apart.
[Source: visual-arts-cork.com]
 
Image source: metmuseum.org
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Seated Woman1944Oil/Charcoal/CanvsPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, Willem1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-11]

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA117 x 81  

Image source: moma.org
In 1944-N, No. 2, an uneven background of black is interrupted by a few jagged fissures of red, yellow, white, and green. Still used a palette knife to apply the thick impasto onto an oversized canvas, resulting in an irregularly textured surface.

The artist rejected any figurative interpretations of his work, claiming to remove any recognizable imagery: I paint only myself, not nature. 

In fact, he wanted to obliterate any connection to the European tradition of painting. Pigment on canvas, he wrote, has a way of initiating conventional reactions. … Behind these reactions is a body of history matured into dogma, authority, tradition. The totalitarian hegemony of this tradition I despise, its presumptions I reject.
[Source: moma.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Painting 1944 No.21944Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Still, Clyfford1904 – 1980, aged 75American painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-12]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA264 x 221  
 Beckmann often represented himself in disguise or costumed to express his own view that life is a series of roles to be played.

In this late self-portrait, the artist seems to have shed disguise: unsmiling, he stands plainly dressed, close behind an easel. The figure is rendered in the strong black outlines characteristic of Beckmann’s rather flat painting style. Tight space presses in around the figure, conveying a claustrophobic sense that underscores Beckmann’s physical presence and close proximity.

His gaze is challenging, but it also creates a sense of immediacy in its directness.
[Source: dia.org]

Image source: dia.org
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Self-Portrait in Olive and Brown1945Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Beckmann, Max Carl Friederich1884 – 1950, aged 66German painter/sculptorAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-13]

Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI 48202, USA60 x 50  

Image source: tate.org.uk
This painting is thought to be based on a photograph of Bacon’s lover Eric Hall wearing a flannel suit dozing on a seat in Hyde Park.

A substantial section of the body has been overpainted, suggesting a black void. An open mouth can be discerned speaking into microphone, a detail that may have derived from photographs of Nazi leaders giving speeches.

The pastoral setting is therefore contrasted with the intimations of organised political violence, making this an early example of Bacon’s combination of aggression and everyday mundane reality.
[Source: tate.org.uk]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Figure in a Landscape1945Oil/CanvasLandscape
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Bacon, Francis 1909-1992, aged 82Irish-English painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-14]

Tate Galleries, London UK162 x 146  
The painting was done on a sheet of fibreboard, with thick amounts of brown and yellow paint drizzled on top of it, forming a nest-like appearance.

It was originally owned by Samuel Irving Newhouse, Jr. and displayed at the Museum of Modern Art before being sold to David Geffen and then allegedly to David Martinez in 2006 (though the supposed sale of this painting to Martinez is disputed).
[Source: .jackson-pollock.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Number 5, 19481948FibreboardAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, Aged 44AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-15]

Private Collection244 x 122  

Image source: jackson-pollock.org
 In Number 8, 1949, Pollock’s line has a polymorphous potency – the capacity to be everywhere at once, to serve the ends of illusion and materiality.

The poet Frank O’Hara put it as well as anyone ever has when he wrote: There has never been enough said about Pollock’s draftsmanship, that amazing ability to quicken a line by thinning it, to slow it by flooding, to elaborate that simplest of elements, the line – to change, to reinvigorate, to extend, to build up an embarrassment of riches in the mass of drawing alone.

It could no sooner be exclusively and reductively ‘optical’ than it could be the slave of modernist literalness. It functioned supremely well as the vehicle of a speed-of-light alloverness, creating the impression that Pollock’s great poured allover paintings arrived at their structure both internally and immediately.
[Source: .jackson-pollock.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Number 819490Abstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, Aged 44AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-16]

Neuburger Museum, 735 Anderson Hill Rd, Purchase, NY 10577, USA48 x 23  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
 The Met acquired this monumental ‘drip’ painting by Pollock in 1957, the year following the artist’s unexpected death—a sign of how quickly his reinvention of painting was accepted into the canon of modern art.

However revolutionary in technique, Pollock’s large-scale work was rooted in the muralism of the 1930s, including the art of Thomas Hart Benton and David Alfaro Siqueiros, both of whom he had worked alongside.

Pollock proclaimed in 1947: ‘I intend to paint large movable pictures which will function between the easel and the mural. . . . the tendency of modern feeling is towards the wall picture or mural.

This work’s title suggests not only the month in which he painted it (October), but also an alignment with nature’s constant flux.
[Source: metmuseum.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)1950Enml/CnvAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, Aged 44American painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-17]

Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA526 x 267  

Image source: moma.org
Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented, de Kooning once remarked, and although he painted many abstractions he continually returned to the figure.

Woman I took him an unusually long time to complete: he made numerous preliminary studies, then repainted the canvas repeatedly, eventually arriving at this figure of a woman, the first of a series.

Some saw the painting as a betrayal, a regression to an outmoded figurative tradition. Others have called it misogynistic, understanding it as objectifying and violent.

De Kooning himself said, however, Beauty becomes petulant to me. I like the grotesque. It’s more joyous.
[Source: moma.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Woman I1950-1952Oil/Metallic paint/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, Willem1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-18]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 1 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA193 x 147  

Image source: moma.org
 One: Number 31, 1950, is one of Pollock’s largest paintings, it exemplifies his ‘drip’ technique, in which he dropped, dribbled, or threw paint onto a canvas laid on the floor.

His looping cords of colour accordingly register force and speed yet are also graceful and lyrical, animating every inch of the composition. On the floor, Pollock said, I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more a part of the painting since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.

Pollock’s process has been compared to the movements of a dance.
[Source: moma.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
One: Number 311950Oil/EnamelAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Pollock, Jackson1912-1956, Aged 44AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-19]

MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, 11 W 53rd St, New York, NY 10019, USA270 x 531  
The Blue Nudes are among the most celebrated and iconic works and a striking example of what Matisse himself called cutting directly into colour.
[Source: tate.org.uk]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Blue Nude II1952Guache/PaperAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Matisse, Henri1869-1954, age 95French painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1680-20]

Musée National d’Art Moderne, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France116 x 89  

Image source: pinterest.com
This painting shows Kitty Garman, Freud’s first wife. Although it is hard to tell from the painting, Garman is pregnant with their second child.

The setting, the dog’s pose, and the way her robe appears to have slipped off her shoulder, exposing her breast, give this image an intimate feel. This contrasts with the anonymous title of the work, and Garman’s blank expression.

Freud was known for depicting his sitters – often friends and lovers – in a way that suggests intimacy, but often feel uncomfortable for the viewer.
[Source: tate.org.uk]

TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Girl with a White Dog1952Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Freud, Lucian1922 – 2011, aged 88British painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-21]

Tate Galleries, Millbank, Westminster, London SW1P 4RG UK76 x 102  

Woman III is one of a series of six paintings by de Kooning done between 1951 and 1953 in which the central theme was a woman.

He began painting women regularly in the early 1940s and did so again later in that decade and more seriously in the 1950s. Often they are depicted in an almost graffitilike style, with gigantic, vacuous eyes, massive breasts, toothy smiles and clawlike hands set against colorful layers of paint.
[Source: willem-de-kooning.org]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Woman III1953Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, Willem1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-22]

Private ownership170 x 120  

Image source: willem-de-kooning.org
de Kooning’s particular brand of Abstract Expressionism retained a figural quality developed from the early influences of the avant-garde painters working in France, and especially the non-French artists in Paris, such as Van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Piet Mondrian.
[Source: willem-de-kooning.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Marilyn Monroe1954Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, Willem1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-23]

Private Collection127 x 76  
This work marked the transition of the subjects of de Kooning’s paintings from women to abstract urban landscapes.

It reflects a transition in de Kooning’s painting technique due the influence of artist Franz Kline, who inspired de Kooning to paint with quickly made gestural marks as opposed to violent brush strokes. The painting features a fleshy pink mass at its center, representing a seated woman.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Interchange1955Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, Willem1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-24]

Private Collection201 x 175  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
The Police Gazette is a landscape painted on canvas using abstract elements, and colours such as yellow, green and red. It is a painting with simple geometric forms, creating a perfect contrast between the formal elements that compose the artwork.

It was this painting that promoted Willem de Kooning amongst the most important abstract painters of the modern world.

Although known for continually reworking his canvases, de Kooning often left them with a sense of dynamic incompletion, as if the forms were still in the process of moving and settling and coming into definition. In this sense his paintings exemplify ‘action painting’ – they are like records of a violent encounter, rather than finished works in the old Beaux Arts tradition of fine painting.
[Source: willem-de-kooning.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Police Gazette1955Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
de Kooning, Willem1904-1997, aged 92Dutch-AmericanAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-25]

Richard Gray Gallery, 875 N Michigan Ave #3800, Chicago, IL 60611 USA109 x 128  
Spatial Concept, Waiting is one of a series of works Fontana made in Milan between 1958 and 1968. These works, which all consist of a canvas that has been cut either once or multiple times, are collectively known as theTagli (‘cuts’).

Considered together, they are Fontana’s most extensive and varied group of works and they have come to be seen as emblematic of his gestural aesthetic.

In 1968 Fontana told an interviewer that, my discovery was the hole and that’s it. I am happy to go to the grave after such a discovery‘.
[Source: tate.org.uk]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Spatial Concept ‘Waiting’ (Concetto spaziale ‘Attesa’)1960CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Fontana, Lucio1899-1968, aged 69Italian artistAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-26]

Tate Galleries, London UK93 x 73  

Image source: barrons.com
Mitchell was a member of the American abstract expressionist movement, even though much of her career took place in France.she was one of her era’s few female painters to gain critical and public acclaim.

Her paintings and editioned prints can be seen in major museums and collections across the United States and Europe. 

Mitchell is recognized as a principal figure and one of the few female artists in the second generation of American Abstract Expressionists.
[Source: tallengestore.com]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Noël1961-2Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Mitchell, Joan1925 – 1992, aged 67American painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-27]

Private Collection205 x 200  
Weight painted a number of acclaimed portraits, most notably one of Orovida Camille Pissarro, but also of less famous individuals.

Many of his paintings showed suburban settings in which unexpected human dramas occurred, some of them humorous and some frightening.

Each painting’s location was chosen specifically for its abstract structure; the locations were usually actual places, but the figures were imagined.

Weight wrote that his art was concerned with such things as anger, love, hate, fear and loneliness, and said, for me the acid test of a painting is: will the ordinary chap get anything out of this?
He was prolific, and typically painted 50 paintings in a year.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]

Image source: pinterest.com
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Daisy in the Gardenc1962Oil/CanvasGenre Painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Weight, Carel1908 – 1997, aged 90English painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-28]

Private Collection92 x 102  

Image source: tate.org.uk
Albers experimented as he produced hundreds of variations on this theme over a period of about twenty-five years.

These included paintings, drawings, prints, and tapestries, but each explored the same basic question: can an artist create the appearance of three dimensions, using only colour relations?
[Source: khanacademy.org]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Homage to the Square1964Oil/WdAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Albers, Josef 1888-1973, aged 88German-American artistAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-29]

Tate Galleries, London UK0  
Bacon painted George Dyer many times and in a variety of ingenious poses: crouching, riding a bicycle, shaving, reflected in a mirror and, as here, seated on a revolving office stool.

He appears, centre stage, in a luridly coloured setting, a blind cord mysteriously swinging above his forehead, its cast shadow seen on the curved wall behind, the whole scene lit by a menacing naked lightbulb – a feature of the artist’s own austerely furnished studio.

Dyer appears to writhe in a contorted pose with his legs crossed, as if caught in mid action as he twirls himself round on the stool, papers scattered away from his summarily sketched-in left foot. His head is framed in an opening, which may be either a window or a door, or even a trimmed photograph of Dyer’s head pinned to the back wall.

Spatial ambiguities abound, as Dyer’s body seems to defy the normal conventions of perspective by linking background to foreground.
[Source: christies.com]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
George Dyer Talking, Portrait of1966OilPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Bacon, Francis 1909-1992, aged 82Irish-English painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-30]

Private Collection0  

Image source: moma.org
The Black Series I prints closely relate to large, monochromatic canvases known as the Black Paintings, which Frank Stella completed between 1958 and 1960.

Each lithograph features a pattern of rectilinear stripes of uniform width printed in metallic black ink on buff-tinted paper.

In the Black Paintings, the stripes extend to the edge of the canvas support; in the prints, Stella positioned the striped form in the lower left quadrant of the sheet. This format visually unifies the series, and subtly shifts focus from the symmetrical patterning to the asymmetrical relationship between striped field and rectangular paper.

In 1964, Stella famously declared of his paintings: What you see is what you see.
[Source: nga.gov]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Black Series I1967Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Stella, Frank1936 –American painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-31]

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC USA38 x 56  
Bearden’s title, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away, is evocative of journeys and partings. It comes from the blues classic Good Chib Blues, recorded by Edith North Johnson in 1929. And like the blues, this monumental collage by Romare Bearden
derives its power from repetitions, multiple meanings, and the layered associations of its imagery. Richly interwoven with metaphor and memory, informed by art historical tradition and life experience, and steeped in a vibrant African American cultural heritage, Tomorrow I May Be Far Away is quintessential Bearden in its expression of the universal human condition.
[Source: nga.gov]

Image source: nga.gov
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Tomorrow I May Be Far Away1967CollageAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Bearden, Romare1911-1988, aged 77American artistAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-32]

National Gallery of Art, Washington DC USA117 x 142  

Image source: sothebys.com
With its evocative palette of goldenrod, cerulean, and evergreen, Joan Mitchell’s Straw from 1976 is an exceptional embodiment of the rich surface textures and impassioned brushwork that define the artist’s output from this glorious phase of her career.

Executed on a monumental scale, the present work reflects Mitchell’s transition beginning in the early seventies toward larger canvases and the accompanying freedom of gesture. The grander size allowed Mitchell to exercise a liberated painterly abandon characterized by expansive brushstrokes and emboldened colour, powerfully evoking the lush countryside of the artist’s home in Vétheuil.
[Source: sothebys.com]
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Straw1976Oil/CanvasAbstract
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Mitchell, Joan1925 – 1992, aged 67American painterAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  [1680-34]

Private Collection280 x 200  
Freud is best known for his intimate, honest, often visceral portraits. Working only from life Freud’s studio was intensely private and he mainly worked with those he was close to, often asking subjects to sit for hundreds of hours over multiple sittings to better capture the essence of their personality.
(Source: imma.ie)

Image source: imma.ie
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Reflection (Self-Portrait)1985Oil/CanvasPortrait
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Freud, Lucian1922 – 2011, aged 88British painterRealism/Abstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1680-33]

Private collection56 x 53  
 The story at the heart of the painting came to Paula Rego ready-made in the form of Jean Genet’s play The Maids (1947), itself based on the real-life case of the Papin sisters, Christine and Lea, who worked as maids for a rich Parisian family. One day, frightened for no apparent reason other than that of a power cut which inconvenienced and possibly frightened the sisters, they brutally murdered the mother and daughter of the family while the man of the house was out at work. In working with the story, Paula Rego seems to have focused on the unnatural closeness of the sisters, both to each other and the mother and daughter they murder. Ambiguity and menacing psychosis reverberate within the picture, much of it carried in the objects with which the room is claustrophobically furnished. And isn’t there something uncertain about the sexuality of the seated figure?
[Source: saatchigallery.com]

Image source: marinaneilart.wordpress.com
TITLE:YEAR:FORM:GENRE:
Family, The1988Acry/Canvas/PprGenre Painting
ARTIST:DATES:ORIGIN:MOVEMENT:
Rego, Dame Maria Paula Figueiroa 1935 – Portuguese artistAbstract Expressionism
LOCATION:SIZE (cms):  
Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Rd, Chelsea, London SW3 4RY UK213 x 213   

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