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Article

Anna Moszynska

Term applied in its strictest sense to forms of 20th-century Western art that reject representation and have no starting- or finishing-point in nature. As distinct from processes of abstraction from nature or from objects (a recurring tendency across many cultures and periods that can be traced as far back as Palaeolithic cave painting), abstract art as a conscious aesthetic based on assumptions of self-sufficiency is a wholly modern phenomenon (see Abstraction).

In the late 19th century, and particularly in Symbolist art and literature, attention was refocused from the object to the emotions aroused in the observer in such a way that suggestion and evocation took priority over direct description and explicit analogy. In France especially this tradition contributed to the increased interest in the formal values of paintings, independent of their descriptive function, that prepared the way for abstraction. In his article ‘Définition du néo-traditionnisme’, published in L’Art et critique...

Article

David Anfam

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 ...

Article

Nelson Goodman

Term used in an art context in several ways: in general for processes of imagemaking in which only some of the visual elements usually ascribed to ‘the natural world’ are extracted (i.e. ‘to abstract’), and also for the description of certain works that fall only partially, if at all, into what is commonly understood to be representational. Differing ideas and manifestations of abstraction appeared in artists’ works in the successive modern movements of the 20th century (see Abstract art). As the notion of abstraction in the second sense is always dependent on what the parameters of representation are thought to be, the two terms can be contiguous in definition, raising interesting points for the general theory of reference. For instance, an abstract work is often defined as one that does not represent anything, but not every work that does not represent anything is necessarily abstract. A painting that has a fictitious subject, for example a painting of Don Quixote or Camelot, does not represent anything (for there is no such person or place) but is not therefore abstract. A Zeus-picture or a Paradise-picture is no more abstract than a Napoleon-picture or a Paris-picture. An abstract work neither represents anything nor is representational....

Article

International group of painters and sculptors, founded in Paris in February 1931 and active until 1936. It succeeded another short-lived group, Cercle et Carré, which had been formed in 1929 with similar intentions of promoting and exhibiting abstract art. Its full official title was Abstraction-Création: Art non-figuratif. The founding committee included Auguste Herbin (president), Georges Vantongerloo (vice-president), Hans Arp, Albert Gleizes, Jean Hélion, Georges Valmier and František Kupka.

Membership of Abstraction-Création was in principle open to all abstract artists, but the dominant tendency within the group was towards the geometric formality championed by Theo van Doesburg and by other artists associated with De Stijl. Works such as Jean Hélion’s Ile-de-France (1935; London, Tate), which came to typify the group’s stance, owed more to the post-war ‘rappel à l’ordre’ interpreted by the Purists in terms of a ‘classic’ and ‘architectonic’ ordering of art, design and architecture, than to the biomorphic abstraction derived from Surrealism. During its brief existence the group published annual ...

Article

Jorge Luján-Muñoz

(b Guatemala, Jan 7, 1933).

Guatemalan painter and printmaker. From 1954 to 1957 he studied at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas in Guatemala City while researching folk art for the Dirección de Bellas Artes, but he was virtually self-taught and began as a draughtsman and painter of bullfighting scenes. In 1958 he travelled to New York on a Guatemalan government grant, prolonging his stay there with further grants, studying at the Arts Students League and Graphic Art Center, and finally settling there permanently. He was influential in Guatemala until c. 1960, but because of his long residence abroad his work did not fit easily in the context of Central American art. Before leaving Guatemala he had painted landscapes and nudes in a naturalistic style, but he soon adopted a more modern idiom partly inspired by aboriginal Guatemalan subjects. After moving to New York, and especially from 1958 to 1961, his art underwent a profound transformation as he sought to bring together elements of abstract art and Surrealism and experimented with textures, for example in cross-hatched pen-and-ink drawings such as ...

Article

Ađalsteinn Ingólfsson

(b Reykjavík, Feb 4, 1922).

Icelandic painter, writer and designer. He studied engineering in 1941–2 at the University of Iceland, Reykjavík, and architecture privately. He then studied at the Icelandic School of Arts and Crafts (Myndlista-og handíÐaskóli Íslands), Reykjavík (until 1943), the Kongelige Kunstakademi in Copenhagen (1945–6), the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris (1947–8) and with Marcel Gromaire in Paris (1949–50). He promoted the movement towards abstract art in Iceland in 1948–52, particularly in its theoretical aspects.

Ágústsson came to geometric abstraction through an interest in Renaissance compositional theory and the theories of the Bauhaus. His meeting with Victor Vasarely in Paris in 1953 encouraged him to continue with a highly reductive series of paintings on which he had embarked shortly before. Later that year Ágústsson was one of the organizers of the Autumn Exhibition (Haustsýningin), the first group show of geometric abstraction in Iceland. At its opening he gave a lecture that became a kind of manifesto for the movement. He followed it up with a series of articles in the cultural review ...

Article

Monica E. Kupfer

(b Le Havre, Oct 19, 1938).

Panamanian painter and printmaker of French birth. He first studied with the figurative painter Alberto Dutary but established himself in the 1960s as one of the few abstract artists in Panama with paintings such as Green Force (Panama City, Mus. A. Contemp.), which attest to the influence of American Abstract Expressionism; in other works he was also influenced by Post-painterly Abstraction. During a visit to Japan in 1969 he came into contact with Japanese art and Zen Buddhism, after which he sought to achieve the maximum impact of form and colour through reduction to essentials. The techniques used in his acrylic paintings and drawings were well suited also to screenprints such as the series Form and Space (1975; Panama City, Gal. Etcétera). Alvarado was also active in organizing exhibitions for others and promoting the arts in Panama as director from 1970 to 1975 of the Departmento de Artes Plásticas of the Instituto Nacional de Cultura y Deportes....

Article

Ilene Susan Fort

[A.A.A.]

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 ...

Article

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 ...

Article

Greta Stroeh

[Jean] (Peter Wilhelm)

(b Strassburg, Germany [now Strasbourg, France], Sept 16, 1886; d Basle, Switzerland, June 7, 1966).

French sculptor, painter, collagist, printmaker, and poet of German birth. The son of a German father and French Alsatian mother, he developed a cosmopolitan outlook from an early age and as a mature artist maintained close contact with the avant-garde throughout Europe. He was a pioneer of abstract art and one of the founders of Dada in Zurich, but he also participated actively in both Surrealism and Constructivism. While he prefigured junk art and the Fluxus movement in his incorporation of waste material, it was through his investigation of biomorphism and of chance and accident that he proved especially influential on later 20th-century art in liberating unconscious creative forces.

Following a brief period at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Strasbourg (1900–01), Arp received instruction from 1901 from a friend and neighbour, the painter and printmaker Georges Ritleng (1875–1972). He then attended the Kunstschule in Weimar (1904–7) and the Académie Julian in Paris (...

Article

Belgian art group designed to propagate abstract art. It was formed in April 1952 as a successor to Jeune Peinture Belge by the artists Jean Milo (b 1906), Jo Delahaut (b 1911), Pol Bury, Georges Carrey (1902–53), Léopold Plomteux (b 1920), George Collignon (b 1923) and Jan Saverys (b 1924), who were joined later that year by Jan Burssens (b 1925) and Hauror. The group first exhibited in 1952 at the Cercle Artistique in Ghent, the Galerie Le Parc in Charleroi and the Galerie Arnaud in Paris and also travelled to Britain. The following year it exhibited at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, the Association pour le Progrès Intellectuel et Artistique de la Wallonie in Liège and at the Salle Comité voor Artistieke Werking in Antwerp. The members of the group had no unifying style or aesthetic apart from being non-figurative. The abstract styles within the group ranged from thickly impastoed informal works such as ...

Article

Hilary Pyle

(b Dublin, Sept 22, 1943).

Irish painter and printmaker . He studied architecture at Bolton Street Technical School, Dublin, from 1961 to 1964. While acting as assistant to Michael Farrell in 1967, he was introduced to hard-edge abstraction and decided to learn to paint. His natural inclination was towards figurative art, initially in his use of the figure as a silhouette in the Marchers series and subsequently in 3rd May—Goya (1970; Dublin, Hugh Lane Mun. Gal.) and other pastiches of paintings by Poussin, Ingres and Delacroix, in which he filled in the outline with flat colour. Such early works were heavily influenced by photography and by a social or political commitment, reinforced with a striking visual wit. These were followed by paintings satirizing the awakening interest in contemporary art in Dublin, as in Woman with Pierre Soulages (1972; Dublin, Bank of Ireland Col.) in which a figure is shown scrutinizing an abstract canvas.

A visit to Brussels, where Ballagh studied the work of Magritte, led him gradually to model his figures, both in portraits and in quasi-Surrealist autobiographical works, in a Photorealist technique in which he alluded to his artistic preoccupations and to his wife and family. The stylistic features of his paintings lent themselves also to silkscreen prints. He has photographed unusual aspects of Dublin architecture, which he published in book form as ...

Article

(b Bothenhampton, Dorset, Aug 12, 1890; d Sydney, 1964).

Australian painter . After spending his early life in England, he moved to Sydney (1913). He began painting in 1922 and at the same time started work as a painter-decorator, a job he did until his retirement in 1956. During the 1920s he attended evening classes at the Sydney Art School under Julian Rossi Ashton. His artistic career did not really begin until 1934 when he participated in life classes with the Australian painters Frank Hinder (b 1906), Grace Crowley (1890–1979) and Rah Fizelle (1891–1964) at the Crowley–Fizelle art school in Sydney. When the school closed in 1937 he continued to paint with Crowley at her studio. In August 1939 Balson took part with Crowley, Hinder, Fizelle and others in the important Exhibition I show at the David Jones Gallery in Sydney. The works exhibited were all semi-abstract, largely influenced by Cubism, and included Balson’s ...

Article

Aleca Le Blanc

(b São Paulo, Jun 20, 1914; d São Paulo, Dec 22, 2010).

Brazilian visual artist and designer. The formal training Barsotti received was in drawing and chemistry, and by the 1950s he had established a professional career in design, working in São Paulo during the postwar period. From 1954 to 1964 he ran a studio with Willys de Castro (1926–1988), a life-long collaborator and fellow artist, called Estúdio de Projetos Gráficos, where he created costume design, graphic design, and textile design, among other things. During this period he focused his artistic efforts exclusively on geometric abstraction, then the dominant style of the avant-garde in Brazil under the rubric of Concrete art. However, Barsotti did not immediately affiliate with any of the groups that promoted it, such as the dogmatic Grupo Ruptura in São Paulo. He was not, strictly speaking, a devotee of Concrete art, which required that the geometric composition be entirely preconceived, divorced from observed reality, and visually represent a mathematical formula. On this matter, de Castro applauded his friend in a ...

Article

Sanja Cvetnić

(Mića) [Mangelos]

(b Šid, Serbia, March 14, 1921; d Zagreb, Croatia, Dec 18, 1987).

Croatian art historian, critic, curator, and conceptual artist. His father was the landowner Ilija Bašičević Bosilj, who became a ‘naïve’ painter in the 1950s. Dimitrije studied art history in Vienna, than Zagreb. He graduated from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Zagreb with the PhD in Art History in 1956. In the fierce polemics about abstract art in the 1950s, he sided with those promoting abstraction. He not only wrote about it, but also participated in organizing Salon 54, the first group exhibition of abstract paintings in Croatia (and the former Yugoslavia), which was held in Rijeka in 1954. From 1960 until 1964 he was a curator at the Gallery of Primitive Art (now Croatian Museum of Naïve Art). In 1965 he became a curator of the Benko Horvat Collection within the Galleries of the City of Zagreb (now Museum of Contemporary Art) and, when its Centre for Film, Photography and Television opened in ...

Article

(René)

(b Paris, Dec 21, 1904; d Clanmart, March 4, 2001).

French painter and writer. He studied under the French sculptor Paul Maximilien Landowski (b 1875) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. At the same time he studied for a degree in literature at the Sorbonne. In 1924 he made two trips to Italy and there began to paint. He first exhibited in 1930 at a group show at the Galerie Jeanne Castel in Paris where the other artists included Jean Fautrier, Jean Pougny and Marcel Gromaire. Two years later he had his first one-man show at the Galerie Van Leer in Paris where he met Bonnard, who advised and encouraged him. Also in 1932 he began his work on the review Esprit and he later contributed art criticism to Temps Présent and Poésie 43.

In 1934 Bazaine had his first watercolour exhibition at the Galerie Van Leer in Paris. In 1936 he made his first visit to Saint-Guénolé in Brittany, a place to which he returned each year. These visits resulted in such works as ...

Article

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...

Article

Henry Adams

(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....

Article

Roy R. Behrens

(Karel Joseph)

(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 ...

Article

Hans Frei

(b Winterthur, Dec 22, 1908; d Zurich, Dec 9, 1994).

Swiss architect, sculptor, painter, industrial designer, graphic designer and writer. He attended silversmithing classes at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Zurich from 1924 to 1927. Then, inspired by the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes (1925), Paris, by the works of Le Corbusier and by a competition entry (1927) for the Palace of the League of Nations, Geneva, by Hannes Meyer and Hans Wittwer (1894–1952), he decided to become an architect and enrolled in the Bauhaus, Dessau, in 1927. He studied there for two years as a pupil of Josef Albers, László Moholy-Nagy, Paul Klee and Vasily Kandinsky, mainly in the field of ‘free art’. In 1929 he returned to Zurich. After working on graphic designs for the few modern buildings being constructed, he built his first work, his own house and studio (1932–3) in Zurich-Höngg; although this adheres to the principles of the new architecture, it retains echoes of the traditional, for example in the gently sloping saddle roof....