art movement that developed in New York in the years after/during World
War II, characterized by the rejection of realism and an emphasis on spontaneous
born American painter who formed the link between European Surrealism
and Abstract Expressionism. He was very much influenced by Picasso and
--The first major art movement to develop in the USA independently of
European influence, it had the effect of making New York, rather than
Paris, the centre of the modern art world. Because Europe was basically,
a war zone and America had not been damaged yet it came time for American
artists (who weren't drafted) to take the stage.
--The AEs changed the definition of abstract art from cubist type, distorting
reality to raw emotional content that was meant to reach the audiences
subconscious by directly evoking an emotional response. Also, the European
artists emigrated to NYC which made it all the more attractive to artists
& critics alike. This was a large influence on artists in NYC like
Pollack, de Kooning, & Rothko because they were actually able to meet
the likes of Andre Breton, Leger, & Piet Mondrian instead of just
hearing about them and/or seeing their work in magazines.
--The act of painting
itself was regarded as more significant than the finished work. AEs focused
on the unpremeditated process of painting in order to achieve unpredictable,
therefore expressive, results.
WILLEM de KOONING
b.1904-1997--Dutch-born artist who came to America in 1926 and met Gorky
a few years later who introduced him to the avant-garde of NYC.
--His first exhibition at the Egan Gallery in NYC (1948) established a
reputation as an energetic abstract painter similar to Pollock in his
use of black-and-white.
--Third exhibition in 1953 displayed his Women series I-VI. Woman I became
one of the most reproduced paintings in the US.
--Worked well into his eighties also dabbling in sculpture, but eventually
became a victim of Alzheimer's disease & died in 1997.
from California; moved to NYC in 1929 to attend the Art Students League
which had no entrance requirements and no set course. For three years
he studied under Regionalist artist Thomas Benton.
--In 1942 he was featured in a group exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's
Art of This Century gallery. Then was given his own showing the following
year. (She Wolf)
--He married Lee Krasner and moved to woodsy Long Island in 1945. During
his sober years he was most successful. Being out of the city gave him
a new perspective.
--In 1947 he began his technique of 'drip & splash.' Instead of using
the traditional easel, Pollock laid his canvas on the floor and poured
and dripped his paint from a can (using commercial enamels and metallic
paint because their texture was better suited to the technique); instead
of using brushes, he manipulated the paint with sticks, trowels or knives
(to use his own words), sometimes obtaining textured effects by the admixture
of sand, broken glass or other foreign matter.
--Pollock, who vividly described how he felt when working on a canvas
laid on the floor: '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 ... When I am in my painting, I am not aware of what
Im doing. It is only after a sort of get acquainted period that
I see what I have been about. I have no fears about making changes, destroying
the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to
let it come through.
ALL-OVER PAINTING--a style of painting in which the whole surface of the
canvas is treated in a relatively uniform manner and traditional ideas
of composition-of the picture having a top, bottom, or centre-are abandoned.
--Pollock's drinking habits led to a downward spiral after 1951 and he
died in a car accident in 1956.
MARK ROTHKO, b.1903
d.1970--He emigrated to the US in 1913. Dropped out of Yale in 1923 and
moved to New York to study at the art Students League under Max Weber
(Cubist & primitivist influenced Russian born""), but regarded
himself a self-taught painter.
--Began to develop his style around 1947; his paintings feature large
rectangular expanses of colour arranged parallel to each other, usually
in a vertical format. The edges of these shapes are softly uneven, giving
them a hazy, pulsating quality as if they were floating on the canvas.
The paintings are often very large and the effect they produce is one
of calmness and contemplation.
--Quote: 'Im not an abstract artist ... Im not interested
in the relationship of colour or form or anything else. Im interested
only in expressing basic human emotions-tragedy, ecstasy, doom and so
on. And the fact that a lot of people break down and cry when confronted
with my pictures shows that I can communicate these basic human emotions
... The people who weep before my pictures are having the same religious
experience as I had when I painted them.
--Rothko used color for mood and atmosphere, not for construction and
--Despite his successes at painting (MOMA retrospective exhibition,1961)
and the money he made from his art as well, he was very depressed and
habit-ridden. Bad marriages, drunk, drug abuser, felt misunderstood by
--Before 1950s, his art was bright & colorful; after 1950s, he used
more blacks, greys, browns, maroons. Eventually committed suicide in his
--He regarded his fourteen paintings for a non-denominational chapel in
Houston, Texas (now known as the Rothko Chapel), 1967-9, as his masterpieces.
The Turning Point: the abstract expressionists and the transformation
of American art. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.
Sandler, Irving. The Triumph of American Painting: a history of Abstract
Expressionism. New York: Praeger, 1970.