Term applied to a movement in American painting that flourished in the 1940s and 1950s, sometimes referred to as the New York School or, very narrowly, as Action painting, although it was first coined in relation to the work of Vasily Kandinsky in 1929. The works of the generation of artists active in New York from the 1940s and regarded as Abstract Expressionists resist definition as a cohesive style; they range from Barnett Newman’s unbroken fields of colour to De Kooning family, §1’s violent handling of the figure. They were linked by a concern with varying degrees of abstraction used to convey strong emotional or expressive content. Although the term primarily denotes a small nucleus of painters, Abstract Expressionist qualities can also be seen in the sculpture of David Smith, Ibram Lassaw and others, the photography of Aaron Siskind and the painting of Mark Tobey, as well as in the work of less renowned artists such as ...
American, 20th century, male.
Active in the USA from 1933.
Born 19 March 1888, in Bottrop (Westphalia), Germany; died 25 March 1976, in New Haven (Connecticut).
Post-painterly Abstraction, Op Art.
American Abstract Artists (AAA).
Josef Albers joined the fine art academy in Berlin in 1913. He trained as an art teacher there in 1915, before continuing his studies at the school of applied arts in Essen from 1916 to 1919 and in Munich. In 1920 he became a student at the Bauhaus, which had just opened in Weimar the previous year. In 1923, just before the Bauhaus moved to its new premises in Dessau, Gropius appointed him a teacher, initially in the stained glass workshop on the basis of experiments he had been conducting since 1921 in ‘pictures of coloured glass’, and then in the furniture workshop, where he created industrial prototypes, most notably an armchair made from shaped laminated wood, dating from 1928. In 1928 Albers took over management of the preliminary course (‘Vorkurs’) founded by Johannes Itten....
Ilene Susan Fort
American group of painters and sculptors formed in 1936 in New York. Their aim was to promote American abstract art. Similar to the Abstraction–Création group in Europe, this association introduced the public to American abstraction through annual exhibitions, publications and lectures. It also acted as a forum for abstract artists to share ideas. The group, whose first exhibition was held in April 1937 at the Squibb Galleries in New York, insisted that art should be divorced from political or social issues. Its aesthetics were usually identified with synthetic Cubism, and the majority of its members worked in a geometric Cubist-derived idiom of hard-edged forms, applying flat, strong colours. While the group officially rejected Expressionism and Surrealism, its members actually painted in a number of abstract styles. Almost half of the founding members had studied with Hans Hoffmann and infused their geometric styles with surreal, biomorphic forms, while others experimented with ...
Kenneth W. Prescott
(b Erie, PA, May 23, 1930).
American painter, printmaker and sculptor. He trained at the Cleveland Institute of Art in Cleveland, OH (1948–53), and under Albers family, §1 at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture in New Haven, CT (1953–5). In his paintings of the late 1940s and early 1950s he depicted everyday city life, as in The Bridge (1950; artist’s priv. col., see Lunde, pl. 66). In 1957 he moved to New York, where from 1957 to 1958 he worked as a conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and from 1959 to 1961 as a silver designer for Tiffany and Co. During this period he began to produce abstract paintings, using either organic or geometric repeated forms, as in Winter Recipe (1958; New York, Mr and Mrs David Evins priv. col., see Lunde, pl. 100). These led in the early 1960s to asymmetric and imperfectly geometric works, such as ...
Robert Saltonstall Mattison
(b Pittsburgh, PA, June 11, 1912; d New York, June 6, 1963).
American painter. Baziotes was brought up in Reading, PA, by his Greek immigrant parents. When his father’s business failed in the mid-1920s, he was exposed to poverty and the life of illegal gambling dens and local brothels, all of which later contributed to the spirit of evil lurking in his paintings. In the early 1930s he worked briefly for a company specializing in stained glass for churches, which may have affected the mysterious and translucent painted environments in his later canvases. His early interest in poetry was heightened by his close friendship with the Reading poet Byron Vazakas, who introduced him to the work of Charles-Pierre Baudelaire and the French Symbolists; these writers soon became an important source for Baziotes’s own search to communicate strong emotions and bizarre states of mind. Themes from Baudelaire’s poetry are suggested in Baziotes’s treatment of twilight, water, the colour green and mirrors, while The Balcony...
(b Neosho, MO, April 15, 1889; d Kansas City, MO, Jan 19, 1975).
American painter, illustrator, and lithographer. One of the most controversial personalities in American art, both in his lifetime and today, Thomas Hart Benton was a key figure in the American Regionalist movement of the 1930s, when he focused on working-class American subject-matter and was outspoken in his denunciation of European modern painting. Today he is best remembered for this phase of his life, and much criticized because of it. But Benton’s long career is not easily reduced to a single moment or achievement: his legacy was more complex. As a young struggling artist in Paris and New York, he was a leading American modernist and abstractionist, and in his early maturity he became the teacher and lifelong father figure for Jackson Pollock, the most famous of the Abstract Expressionists. He was also a major American writer, who wrote on art and whose autobiography of 1936 became a best-seller. He was also a notable figure in American music who collected American folk songs and devised a new form of harmonica notation that is still in use....
Roy R. Behrens
(b Cleveland, OH, Aug 23, 1906; d Red Wing, MN, Dec 26, 2004).
American painter and theorist. Biederman worked as a graphic designer for several years before studying art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1926 to 1929. A week after his arrival he saw a painting by Cézanne that greatly influenced his subsequent thought. He lived in New York from 1934 to 1940, except for a nine-month period in 1936–7 when he lived in Paris. He began to make reliefs in 1934. His visits in Paris to the studios of Mondrian, Georges Vantongerloo, César Domela and Antoine Pevsner made him aware of De Stijl, Neo-Plasticism, Abstraction-Création and Constructivism. He also met Léger, Miró, Arp, Kandinsky, Robert Delaunay, Alberto Giacometti, Picasso and Brancusi.
Shortly before returning to New York in 1938, Biederman made his first abstract reliefs, which he termed ‘non-mimetic’ (e.g. New York, Number 18, 1938; New York, Met.). In the same year, while visiting Chicago, he attended a seminar given by the Polish-born writer Alfred Korzybski, founder of the General Semantics Institute, which strongly influenced his later theories about history as an evolutionary process. He moved to Red Wing, near Minneapolis, MN, in ...
American, 20th century, male.
Born 1 July 1907, in St Petersburg; died 1984, in New York.
Groups: The Ten, American Abstract Artists (AAA).
Ilya Bolotowsky studied in Baku (in present-day Azerbaijan), then in a French institution in Constantinople. He arrived in the USA in ...
(b Croydon, London, March 31, 1888; d Toronto, March 21, 1955).
Canadian painter, critic and writer of English birth. He emigrated in 1905 to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba. In 1921 he moved to Toronto to work as an editor and publisher. He is best known as a pioneer of abstract painting in Canada. His show (1927) at Toronto’s Arts & Letters Club was the first solo exhibition of abstract art by a Canadian artist. His early work is characterized by the bold non-objective imagery seen in the complex Sounds Assembling (1928; Winnipeg, A.G.). After 1930 he reassessed his artistic direction: he turned first to figurative imagery (e.g. Torso, 1937; Ottawa, N.G.) and then looking to Cubism he re-examined the nature of abstraction in his painting, without returning to the non-objectivity of his earlier work. Between 1926 and 1930 Brooker wrote ‘The Seven Arts’, a syndicated column of art criticism for the Southam Press. In addition, he edited The Yearbook of the Arts in Canada...
American, 20th century, male.
Born 1907, in Yonkers (New York); died 1961, in New York.
Painter (including gouache/tempera), draughtsman. Figures.
American Abstract Artists (AAA).
Byron George Browne was influenced by the work of John Graham, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. He was a founding member in 1936 of the American Abstract Artists group, an organisation based in New York that was dedicated to the exhibition of abstract art. Browne often specialised in colourful still-life paintings in the Synthetic Cubist style. Although an abstract painter, he seldom painted works that did not contain references to figures or nature, distilling them into geometric shapes, as in his tempera painting ...