Abstract Expressionism

by Robert McIntosh

6 February '19

Abstract Expressionism - American painters of New York City

American abstract art of the 1940s and 1950s

Abstract Expressionism art

Abstract Expressionism art, as part of abstract art, is a term applied to a movement in American painting that flourished in New York City after World War II, sometimes referred to as the New York School or, more narrowly, as action painting.

Abstract Expressionism definition

An artistic movement of the mid-20th century comprising diverse styles and techniques and emphasizing especially an artist's liberty to convey attitudes and emotions through nontraditional and usually nonrepresentational means.

The varied work produced by the Abstract Expressionists resists definition as a cohesive style;

instead, these artists shared an interest in using abstraction to convey strong emotional or expressive content.

While Abstract Expressionism is often considered for its advancements in painting, its ideas had deep resonance in many mediums, including drawing and sculpture.

Untitled | Jackson Pollock Abstract expressionism artworks
Abstract expressionism artworks

American art in the 1950s

Abstract Expressionism emerged in a climate of Cold War politics and social and cultural conservatism. World War II had positioned the United States as a global power, and in the years following the conflict, many Americans enjoyed the benefits of unprecedented economic growth. But by the mid-1950s the spirit of optimism had morphed into a potent mix of power and paranoia fueled by the fear of Communist infiltration.

One scholar later reflected: “It is ironic but not contradictory that in a society…in which political repression weighed as heavily as it did in the United States, abstract expressionism was for many the expression of freedom: the freedom to creative controversial works of art, the freedom symbolized by action painting, by the unbridled expressionism of artists completely without fetters.”

Abstract Expressionist Artists in New York City

Abstract Expressionism marked the beginning of New York City’s influence as the center of the Western art world. The world of the Abstract Expressionist American artists was firmly rooted in Lower Manhattan, were color field painting style of abstract painting emerged during the 1940s and 1950s.

Jackson Pollock’s studio was on East 8th Street, Willem de Kooning’s and Philip Guston’s were on East 10th, and Franz Kline at the Cedar Street Tavern on University Place. Barnett Newman at 47 Horatio Street in the West Village. Lee Krasner at the Springs, East Hampton and Hans Hofmann studio at 53 East 9th Street. In 1940, American painter Robert Motherwell came to New York City and joined the group.

Abstract Expressionist Artists in New York City
The group of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline — set out to change the face of American painting. These painters renounced the prevalent American style, believing its realism depicted only the surface of American life.

The avant-garde innovation strategy pushes the boundaries of what was accepted as the norm or the status quo in the cultural realm.

Their interest was in exploring the deeper sense of reality beyond the recognizable image. Influenced by the Surrealists, many of whom had emigrated from Europe to New York, like Arshile Gorky, the Abstract Expressionists sought to create essential images that revealed emotional truth and authenticity of feeling.

About author Robert McIntosh was born 1965 in Amsterdam, North Holland. He studied at Royal College of Art in South Kensington. Educated in England and the United States. Lives in Amsterdam. Has also lived in Russia. He works mainly with oil paintings and sculptures and is interested only in authentic and genuine art. He writes extensively on abstract art.

abstract artists oil painting

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