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Article

Corinne Robins

(b New Orleans, LA, May 6, 1926).

African American painter. Edward Clark experienced the excitement of being part of the younger generation of Abstract Expressionists and over a period of 50 years built up a solid body of work that has made something both unique and original out of his commitment to Jackson Pollock’s (1912–56) principles of action and spontaneity.

Born in New Orleans in 1926, Clark grew up in Chicago and, after studying at the Chicago Art Institute, took advantage of the GI Bill and went to Paris. There, he enrolled in the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in 1951 and by 1952 came under the influence of Paul Cézanne (1839–1906) and of Cubism. In 1954, the American Center for Students and Artists became interested in the artistic activity in Montparnasse studios and presented an exhibition titled Grandes Toiles de Montparnasse, in which Clark participated and was described in a review in ...

Article

Marshall N. Price

[Ferren, Millard James]

(b Pendleton, OR, Oct 17, 1905; d Southampton, NY, July 25, 1970).

American painter. Born Millard James Ferren, following high school in Los Angeles, Ferren took the first name John and moved to San Francisco where he learned stonecarving, worked as a telephone engineer and had contact with modernist artists such as Yun Gee and Rinaldo Cuneo (1877–1939). He initially worked as a sculptor but soon began painting. Ferren traveled to Europe twice as a young man, first in 1929 and then later from 1931 to 1938, residing in Paris and Mallorca, Spain. While in Europe he studied at the académies Colorossi and Ronson, as well as the Sorbonne and the universities of Florence, Italy, and Salamanca, Spain. In Paris he became friendly with artists who were codifying the language of abstract art such as Piet (er Cornelis) Mondrian, Jean Hélion, Joaquín Torres García (1874–1949) and S(tanley) W(illiam) Hayter, among others. Ferren played a role in bringing this language to America, first as part of the exhibition ...

Article

Anna Moszynska

(b San Mateo, CA, June 25, 1923; d Santa Monica, CA, Nov 4, 1994).

American painter and printmaker. Following an accident leading to spinal tuberculosis while serving in the US Army Air Corps, Francis started to paint for distraction in 1944, studying privately under David Park in 1947. He subsequently relinquished his earlier medical studies in favor of painting, completing his BA (1949) and MA (1950) at the University of California at Berkeley. During this period he experimented with different styles of painting, notably Surrealism and the Abstract Expressionism of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and particularly Clyfford Still. His own style emerged in 1949–50; in Opposites (1950; Tokyo, Idemitsu Mus. A.), for example, dripping, corpuscular shapes painted in fluid red circulate freely around the canvas, indicating what was to become a perennial concern with “ceaseless instability.” With its sensitivity to sensuous color and light, Francis’s work was already showing very different concerns from the expressive iconography and energy of many of the Abstract Expressionists....

Article

Harry Rand

[Adoian, Vosdanig Manoog]

(b Dzov, Turkish Armenia, April 15, 1904; d Sherman, CT, July 21, 1948).

American painter of Armenian birth. One of the most illustrious artists of the post-war New York School, he began his life in possibly the most obscure circumstances of any international modern master. His father emigrated to the USA to avoid conscription into the Turkish Army in World War I; in the Turkish persecution of the Armenians, Gorky’s mother died in her son’s arms after a 120-mile march. With his sister (who later figured prominently in his paintings) Gorky made his way to the coast and then, by ship, to the USA, arriving at New York in April 1920.

Gorky settled into a community of Armenians in New England and attempted a reconciliation with his father, but when that failed he moved from Massachusetts to New York City (c. 1925). There he assumed his pseudonym, claiming to be a cousin of the Russian writer, Maksim Gor’ky whose name, however, was a ...

Article

Harry Rand

(b New York, March 14, 1903; d Easthampton, NY, March 4, 1974).

American painter and sculptor. One of the few members of the New York School born in New York, Gottlieb studied at the Art Students League under Robert Henri and John Sloan in 1920–21. His teachers communicated a dark brushy approach to painting that, although highly unfashionable at a time when Cubism ruled modernity, nevertheless established the defining characteristics of what became Abstract Expressionism. The next year Gottlieb travelled through France and Germany, studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, schooling that may have re-enforced an otherwise reactionary approach to painting. Following his return to New York in 1923, he attended the Parsons School of Design and Cooper Union Institute. The most widely travelled of the New York painters (rivalled only by Franz Kline), having been to Paris, Munich, and Berlin before even beginning advanced formal studies, Gottlieb was the least provincial of his colleagues. The breadth of his training and art-historical knowledge served him well in his own teaching, his principal means of support during the mid-1930s. His first one-man exhibition was in ...

Article

Cynthia Goodman

(Georg Albert)

(b Weissenberg, Bavaria, March 21, 1880; d New York, Feb 17, 1966).

American painter, teacher and theorist of German birth. He moved with his family to Munich in 1886 and in 1896 left home to become assistant to the director of public works of the State of Bavaria; he distinguished himself with a number of inventions, including an electromagnetic comptometer, a radar device for ships, a sensitized light bulb and a portable freezer unit for military purposes. In spite of his parents’ strong objection and their hopes for his career as a scientist, in 1898 he enrolled in the art school run by Moritz Heymann (b 1870) in Munich. Hofmann subsequently studied with a succession of teachers and was particularly influenced by Willi Schwarz (b 1889), who familiarized him with French Impressionism, a style that affected his earliest known paintings, such as Self-portrait (1902; New York, Emmerich Gal., see Goodman, 1986, p. 14).

In 1903 Hofmann was introduced by Schwarz to ...

Article

David Anfam

(Rowe)

(b Wilkes-Barre, PA, May 23, 1910; d New York, May 13, 1962).

American painter. His first academic training was at Boston University from 1931 to 1935 and in London at the Heatherley School of Art from 1937 to 1938 as an illustrator and draughtsman. Two main tendencies emerged at an early stage that would later develop into a powerful contribution to the ‘gestural’ trend within Abstract Expressionism. Numerous small graphics, sketches, and oils and the mural series Hot Jazz (Norfolk, VA, Chrysler Mus.), painted for a New York bar in 1940, reveal an interest in translating animated subjects into quick, rudimentary strokes. Kline admired and found inspiration in a wide range of artists notable for their fluency in handling paint, including Rembrandt, Goya, Manet, Sargent, and Whistler. By contrast, an inclination to compose in terms of simplified areas was derived from academic training and perhaps also reflected Kline’s memories of his native Pennsylvania’s coal-mining region, with its stark scenery, locomotives, and similar massive mechanical shapes, to which the titles of his later abstract images sometimes referred. ...

Article

Robert Saltonstall Mattison

(b Aberdeen, WA, Jan 24, 1915; d Princetown, MA, July 16, 1991).

American painter, printmaker, and editor. A major figure of the Abstract Expressionist generation (see Abstract Expressionism), in his mature work he encompassed both the expressive brushwork of action painting and the breadth of scale and saturated hues of colour field painting, often with a marked emphasis on European traditions of abstraction.

Motherwell was sent to school in the dry climate of central California to combat severe asthmatic attacks and developed a love for the broad spaces and bright colours that later emerged as essential characteristics of his abstract paintings. His later concern with themes of mortality can likewise be traced to his frail health as a child. From 1932 he studied literature, psychology, and philosophy at Stanford University, CA, and encountered in the poetry of the French Symbolists an expression of moods that dispensed with traditional narrative. He paid tribute to these writers in later paintings such as ...

Article

David Anfam

(b New York, Jan 29, 1905; d New York, July 4, 1970).

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, and writer. He was a major exponent of Abstract Expressionism whose reductive idiom employing large chromatic expanses exerted a considerable impact on abstract art after World War II. His writings and pronouncements also contributed to the accompanying theoretical debates during and after the 1960s about meaning in non-figurative expression.

After studies at the Art Students League, New York, in 1922 and 1929 Newman destroyed most of his basically realistic initial output and stopped painting by about 1939–40. He explained that the world historical crisis then had rendered traditional subject-matter and styles invalid, necessitating the search for a new, awe-inspiring content appropriate to the moment. A series of essays and catalogue introductions throughout the 1940s reiterated this aesthetic quest. Their polemical stance focused upon the need for a break with outworn European traditions (including such native continuations as American Scene painting), chaos as a wellspring of human creativity, and the irrelevance of beauty in times of terror. Instead, he resurrected the venerable concept of the Sublime for a metaphysical ‘art which through symbols will catch the basic truth of life which is its sense of tragedy’ (‘The Plasmic Image’, unpublished essay, ...

Article

(b Asheville, NC, April 10, 1924; d Port Clyde, ME, Jan 5, 2010).

American painter and sculptor. He served in the US Air Force from 1942 to 1946 and after his discharge took advantage of the G.I. Bill to study at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. There he was taught by Ilya Bolotowsky, learning about Neo-plasticism and Mondrian; he also had one course with Albers family, §1, whom he found rigid and doctrinaire but from whom he learnt about Bauhaus theories. During this period he also developed an interest in Paul Klee’s work, especially in his use of colour. In 1948, again under the G.I. Bill, Noland travelled to Paris. There he studied sculpture in Ossip Zadkine’s studio and, guided by him, also painted, though Zadkine’s Cubist aesthetic seemed a little old-fashioned to him after his Bauhaus training. While in Paris he also saw paintings by Picasso, Miró, and Matisse and in 1949 had his first one-man show at the Galerie Raymond Creuze....

Article

Francis V. O’Connor

(b Cody, WY, Jan 28, 1912; d East Hampton, NY, Aug 11, 1956).

American painter.

He was the youngest of five sons and in his first 16 years moved 9 times with his family between California and Arizona. In 1928 he settled in Los Angeles, where he studied at the Manual Arts High School under the painter and illustrator Frederick John de St Vrain Schwankowsky, and learnt the rudiments of art and the basics of European and Mexican modernism. His teacher introduced him to the doctrines of Theosophy, which prepared Pollock, who had been brought up as an agnostic, to be open to contemporary spiritual concepts: the unconscious, Carl Gustav Jung’s analytical psychology, and Surrealist automatism.

Like his brother Charles, who had left home in 1922 to study art, Pollock went to New York in 1930. He studied at the Art Students League with the Regionalist mural painter Thomas Hart Benton. He lived in poverty from 1933 until 1935, when he worked as a mural assistant and later easel painter on the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP). This provided a subsistence wage and the opportunity to experiment until ...

Article

Bonnie Clearwater

[Rothkowitz, Marcus]

(b Dvinsk, Russia [now Daugavpils, Latvia], Sept 25, 1903; d New York, Feb 25, 1970).

American painter and draughtsman of Russian birth. He was one of the major figures of Abstract Expressionism and an important influence on the development of Colour field painting.

In 1913 he immigrated with his mother and sister to the USA, where they were reunited with his father and two older brothers, who had settled in Portland, OR, a few years earlier. As a youth in Portland, Rothko excelled scholastically and in particular pursued interests in literature, music, and social studies. From 1921 to 1923 he attended Yale University on a scholarship, but he left in his third year without graduating. He moved to New York, where he sporadically attended a few courses at the Art Students League, including a painting class with Max Weber, which constituted his only formal training in art. Essentially self-taught, Rothko educated himself by attending exhibitions and visiting the studios of artists such as Milton Avery, whose paintings of simplified forms and flat areas of colour suggested possibilities for Rothko’s own work....

Article

David Anfam

(b Grandin, ND, Nov 30, 1904; d Baltimore, MD, June 23, 1980).

American painter. His best-known work is associated with Abstract Expressionism, although he had established the basis for a strongly original style and outlook before any contact with New York art circles. His early life was divided between Washington state, where he was educated, and a prairie homestead in southern Alberta, Canada. Domestic tensions and the vicissitudes of farm life added an embattled note to his rugged though sensitive intellect. He was also deeply influenced by the vast flatness of the Canadian landscape, which became more desolate during an extended period of drought and depression after 1917. Early paintings such as the Row of Grain Elevators (1929; Washington, DC, Smithsonian Amer. A. Mus.) depict the agricultural environment of the prairies in a vigorous, somewhat crude manner reminiscent of Regionalism (see Regionalism). Yet they also stress the symbolic polarities that the artist described as the ‘vertical necessity of life’ rising against the horizontal, so that the anatomy of the human figure remained a seminal concern. Among other early stylistic traits were the reduction of form to essentials, compositions often structured around a central mass and the device of animating sombre colour schemes with small bright accents. Throughout his career, Still produced many works on paper....