By: Sofia Garces-Vasquez
What is it?
Abstract Expressionism is the name for an artistic
movement that grew in the USA (1940) (1950) shaped by the
legacy of surrealism . It is also known as the New York School,
since most artists who had fled the fighting and persecution in
Europe ended up in New York. The abstract expressionist group
was made up of artists who had either come from Europe or who
were directly influenced by the movements, styles and
How is it Abstract?
This movement was translated into a new style fitted to
the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma. Expressionist artists
used bold colours and lines to strong feelings and emotion . This
style is different from figurative or realist art. Where the artist tries
to recreate the appearance of actual objects or people these
artists reduce things from the real world to basic shapes and
forms or create new forms from their imagination.
This form of art is also influenced by surrealism. The
surrealist tried to express the subconscious using symbolic
and dream like images. While abstract expressionists
expressed things through the actual process of painting.
Before Abstract Expressionism many artists did not value
American art as much as European art. Some copied its
style while others painted realist images of life. In the rural
and urban united states the recognition of the Abstract
Expressionist meant that for the first time the USA became
known as an important force in avant-garde art, avantgarde is a term used for anything radically new or
different. While the abstract expressionists were influenced
by European art, they created something entirely new and
created trends rather then follow them.
How is It formal?
A paintings form is composed of its basic elements:
colour, line, composition and texture. This elements
contain the fundamental language to examine and analyze
works of art. Whether an artwork is pure abstraction or
representational, formalism looks for the same basic
elements and judges a paintings value based on the artists
ability to achieve a cohesive balance in the composition. If
a painting is deemed deficient in value, it is because the
artist failed to create a visual balance of the formal
expressionism, the artist seeks to
depict not objective reality but rather the subjective
emotions and responses that objects and events
create in a person. This can be accomplished through
distortion, exaggeration, primitivism and fantasy and
through the vivid, jarring, violent or dynamic
application of formal elements
Action painting
Also known as Gestural Abstraction. It is a style of
painting in which paint is spontaneously dribbled, splashed
or smeared onto the canvas, usually placed faced up on
the floor. rather then being carefully applied. Although This
technique has been used by different artists involved in
different movements, it is principally associated with the
New York School of American Abstract Expressionism .
The name Action Painting was first used in 1952 by the
American critic Harol Rosenberg, according to him Action
Painting gave complete freedom to the painters creative
impulses, and made the act of painting more important
then the work itself
Arshile Gorky
He was an American painter who had a fatherly
influence on the creation of the Abstract Expressionism art
movement. He created a crucial bridge between surrealism
and Abstract Expressionism. The actual date of his birth is
unknown, it was somewhere between 1902 and 1905
therefore he was always vague about his birthday and he
would change it from year to year. Gorky hit on the idea of
becoming a great painter by practicing painting in the style
of Paul Cezzane, Joa Miro, and Pablo Picasso. He was
particularly interested in Pablo Picasso’s synthetic cubism.
At the end of 1920s and into the 1930s he experimented
with cubism, eventually moving to surrealism. His aim was
never to imitate the work of others however, but to learn
their form, their aesthetic ideas, and then evolve beyond it
From 1026 to 1931 he taught the grand central school of
art and influenced many young artists with his theories
about abstraction. At the age of 31 he married and
changed his name to Arshile Gorky, in the process of
reinventing his identity he told people he was relative of
the Russian writter Maxim Gorky, and started lying about
his age and date of birth. He like passing himself off as a
successful Russian portraits who had studied in Paris and
experimented with Automatism. Gorky’s final years were a
soap opera of intense pain and heartbreak. He achieved
personal success and fame, but his studio burnt down in
1946, and he lost many of his paintings. He also had
surgery to remove his throat cancer. In June 1948 his neck
was broken and his painting arm temporarily paralyzed in a
car accident. In July his wife of seven years, left him taking
his children with her. On july 21st, 1948 Gorky hanged
himself in Sherman at the age of 44
Some of his work…
The Artist and his Mother 1926
Self Portrait at the Age of Nine -1928
Night Time Enigma and Nostalgia - 1932
Organization - 1933
Wassily kandinsky
Born on Dec 16 1866 in Moscow in a family of
business man, his parents wanted him to become a lawyer
so he entered the law faculty of Moscow university and
graduated with honours, six years later he married his
cousin. In 1896 he decided to give up his successful
career to devote himself completely to painting, in 1900 he
entered the Munich Academy of Arts, where he met
Gabriella munter and divorced his wife, five years later, he
with Gabriella traveled across Europe, and they settled
down in a small town at the bottom of the Alps. In 1901 he
founded Phalanx, an art group and started a school where
he taught himself. When the world war began, him and his
wife moved to Switzerland where he started to work on a
book, November Gabriella went back to Germany. In 1916
he got acquainted with the daughter of the Russian
General and he married her in February 1917
During this years of revolution Kandisnsky alternated
between half abstract idiom, impressionist landscapes and
romantic fantasies. He returned to Germany in 1921, there
he taught the school or art and architecture from 1922 until
the Nazis closed it in 1933. he then moved to France,
where he lived for the rest of his life
Some of his work…
White Dot- 1923
Oil Paint
Composition VIII
Oil Paint
Braunlich (Brownish) 1931
Oil Paint
Jackson Pollock
Born January 28, 1912, in Cody. Jackson pollock
studied under Thomas Hart Benton before leaving
traditional techniques to explore abstraction,
expressionism via his splatter and action pieces, which
involved pouring paint and other media directly onto the
canvas. Pollock was both renowned and critiqued for his
conventions. He died after driving drunk ad crashing into a
tree in New York in 1956, at age 44
During the Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt
started a program called the Public Works of Art Project,
one of many intended to jumpstart the economy. Artists
such as Pollock were given $24.86 to do 20 hours of work
a week. The program resulted in thousands of works of art
by Pollock and contemporaries such as José Clemente
Orozco, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
But despite being busy with work, Pollock could not stop
drinking. In 1937, he began receiving psychiatric treatment
for alcoholism from a Jungian analyst who fueled his
interest in symbolism and Native American art. In 1939,
Pollock discovered Pablo Picasso's show at the Museum
of Modern Art. Picasso's artistic experimentation
encouraged Pollock to push the boundaries of his own
Pollock’s most famous paintings were made during the
“drip Period” 1947-1950. he became very popular after
being featured in a four page spread on Aug 8, 1949, in life
magazine. This article changed Pollock’s life over night,
many other artists resented his fame, and his friends
suddenly became competitors . As his fame grew he
began to question his own work. In 1950 his show at Betty
Parsons Gallery sold out, and he suddenly became the
best paid painter in America. Pollock’s fame made him
become dismissive of other artists, even his former teach
A documentary Photographer began producing a film of
Pollock working , Pollock found It impossible to perform in
front of the camera. Instead, he went back to drinking
Pollock's 1950 show at the Parsons gallery did not sell,
though many of the paintings included, such as his
"Number 4, 1950," are considered masterpieces today. It
was during this time that Pollock began to consider
symbolic titles misleading, and instead began using
numbers and dates for each work he completed. Pollock's
art also became darker in color. He abandoned the "drip"
method, and began painting in black and white, which
proved unsuccessful. Depressed and haunted, Pollock
would frequently meet his friends at the nearby Cedar Bar,
drinking until it closed and getting into violent fights.
Concerned for Pollock's well-being, Krasner called on
Pollock's mother to help. Her presence helped to stabilize
Pollock, and he began to paint again. He completed his
masterpiece, "The Deep," during this period.
But as the demand from collectors for Pollock's art grew,
Overwhelmed with Pollock's needs, his wife was also
unable to work. Their marriage became troubled so he
started dating other women, and by 1956, he had quit
painting, and his marriage was in shambles. Krasner
reluctantly left for Paris to give Pollock space.
Just after 10 p.m. on August 11, 1956, Pollock had been
drinking and he crashed his car into a tree less than a mile
from his home, his girlfriend at the time, was thrown from
the car and survived. Another passenger was killed, and
Pollock was thrown 50 feet into the air and into a birch
tree. He died immediately.
His wife returned to bury Pollock, her mourn Retained her
creativity and productivity, Krasner lived and painted for
another 20 years. She also managed the sale of Pollock's
paintings, distributing them to museums. Before her death,
Krasner set up the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, which
gives grants to young, promising artists. When Krasner
died on June 19, 1984, the estate was worth $20 million.
Summertime: Number 9A 1948
Oil, enamel and house paint on canvas
Mural 1943
Willem de kooning
Gotham News 1955
Rider (Untitled-VII) (1985)
Untitled 1949
Works Cited
• http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/198740/Expressi
• http://www.theartstory.org/definition-formalism.htm
• http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_painting
• http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/actionpainting.htm
• http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/abstractexpressi
• http://www.wassilykandinsky.net/
• http://www.biography.com/people/jackson-pollock9443818#downfall-and-death
• https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8ZgxvW8otQ