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ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM 1940s AND 50s. Abstract Expressionism should not be confused with the German Expressionist movement that we studied earlier. The.

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Presentation on theme: "ABSTRACT EXPRESSIONISM 1940s AND 50s. Abstract Expressionism should not be confused with the German Expressionist movement that we studied earlier. The."— Presentation transcript:


2 Abstract Expressionism should not be confused with the German Expressionist movement that we studied earlier. The German Expressionists painted in Europe in the early years of the 20 th century. The Abstract Expressionist movement came later, developing midway through the 20 th century, in the 1940s and 1950s, and originating in the United States.

3 Jackson Pollock 1912 - 1956 Pollock pioneered what came to be known as Action Painting, as the technique of dribbling, pouring, spraying and flinging paint was a very physical process, involving the artist’s entire body, rather than just the arm and wrist.

4 Pollock seated by his car By Hans Namuth Gelatin silver print, 1950 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

5 Jackson grew up in Arizona and California. He was expelled from two different high schools in his adolescence before moving, with his brother, to New York in 1930. During his early life, he experienced Native American culture while on surveying trips with his father in the American southwest. He was particularly influenced by the Indian tradition of sand painting. In New York, he studied at the Art Students League of New York.

6 In an attempt to deal with alcoholism, Pollock underwent Jungian psychotherapy. His therapist tried to engage him through his art and had Pollock make drawings, which led to the appearance of many Jungian concepts in his paintings. Recently it has been hypothesized that Pollock might have had bipolar disorder (ie manic depression). (Wikipedia)

7 Pollock described his own process: My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.

8 I continue to get further away from the usual painter's tools such as easel, palette, brushes, etc. I prefer sticks, trowels, knives and dripping fluid paint or a heavy impasto with sand, broken glass or other foreign matter added.

9 When I am in my painting, I'm not aware of what I'm doing. It is only after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well.

10 Pollock's public image became larger than life, and his myth began to dominate his art because of the interaction of many factors, including the public's fascination with the millions paid for art that did not, like Rembrandt's or even Monet's work, look like art to them at all. For Pollock' technique of pouring paint rather than using a brush was in and of itself so radical that Picasso's distortions looked tame by comparison. (Wikipedia)

11 The following photographs of Pollock at work on a canvas were taken by Hans Namuth, whose film footage of Pollock increased the mythic status that the artist achieved by the 1940s.






17 Pollock’s notoriety created plenty of debate about the value of his work.

18 "a random mess"? (LIFE's 1949 feature article on Pollock) "This is not art--it's a joke in bad taste." --Reynolds News headline, 1959 Eyes in the Heat, 1946

19 Shimmering Substance, 1946

20 According to the critic Clement Greenburn, Pollock’s drip paintings were "the epitome of aesthetic value. Another critic, John Molyneux, claimed that Pollock’s paintings “create order out of chaos" and "without obvious patterning... achieve a total symphonic composition” … thus they speak to "the struggle against alienation, fragmentation, and disintegration" (3)

21 Cathedral, 1947

22 Full Fathom Five, 1947

23 Lavender Mist: Number 1, 1950 Most Abstract Expressionis ts were male They produced a "virile" and violent art

24 Autumn Rhythm, Number 1 1950

25 What makes these paintings 'great'? The major paintings possess two qualities which relate to both form and content. First, they create order out of chaos. Without obvious patterning they achieve a total symphonic composition and this speaks of the struggle against alienation, fragmentation and disintegration. Second these compositions 'signify' at many levels--they convey by suggestion a multiplicity of 'meanings', meanings that are social, historical and political in character. --John Molyneux

26 Let us take Lavender Mist as an example... It is suggestive of an aerial photograph of a city, but it is a city that has somehow been blasted... It is also suggestive of astronomical photographs of nebulae and galaxies... while at the same time close up details of this and other paintings resemble microscopic photos of molecular structures.

27 Add to these visual associations that these works were painted in the aftermath of Hiroshima and at the onset of the Cold War, and note Pollock's own statement that 'modern art to me is nothing more than the expression of contemporary aims of the age that we're living in... the modern painter cannot express this age, the airplane, the atom bomb in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique.' Also recall again that this technique was to drip, flick and throw the paint onto the canvas from above. Put all this together and I think the connection between the work and the historical advent of the threat of nuclear annihilation is clear. --John Molyneux, “Expression of an Age”

28 Art and Politics in the Cold War Era Abstract Expressionism developed during a period known as the Cold War, following the cessation of active warfare during WWII (1939- 1945). The communist Soviet Union was expanding its influence in Eastern Europe, much to the dismay of the western democracies. The world was dividing into countries allied to the Russian Soviets and those that were ranged against this new superpower. The arms race that developed between the opponents, as each side raced to develop more and more powerful and sophisticated nuclear weapons, threatened the security of the entire planet. The possibility of nuclear annihilation was a real threat, and one that influenced the work of writers and artists, Pollock among them.

29 Mark Rothko and Colour Field Painting Rothko was a Russian born painter who came to the United States as a child. His early work was highly influenced by the Surrealists, but in the 1950s he began to produce large canvases without any subject matter, simply large “fields” of colour that often appeared to vibrate with great intensity. He is grouped with the Abstract Expressionists, although he resisted this designation.


31 Mark Rothko White Centre

32 Mark Rothko - Orange

33 Willem De Kooning The hallmark of de Kooning's style was an emphasis on complex figure ground ambiguity. Background figures would overlap other figures causing them to appear in the foreground, which in turn might be overlapped by dripping lines of paint thus positioning the area into the background. (Wikipedia)

34 Willem De Kooning - Woman

35 De Kooning painted many variations on the theme of women, many of them expressing a menacing sexuality that viewers found disturbing.

36 De Kooning – Pink Angels. 1945

37 De Kooning – Two Trees

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