Abstract Expressionism (1940s–1950s)

About the time

This is during World War II.  After World War II, the Cold War started.  The term "Cold War" refers to the standoff between Capitalism and Communism.  Capitalist countries like the United States and most Western European countries have free enterprise which means that some people own businesses and therefore those people are richer than the people who work for the businesses.  A Communist system like the one Russia was trying to establish has the government control everything including businesses which, in theory, allows for everyone in the country to share everything so there are no rich or poor.  The Cold War happened because everyone had access to nuclear weapons and people were scared that someone would start using them  If one country used one, then another country would use another and that would cause World War III.


The Art

Artists are looking for new ways to express themselves.  Cameras are advanced enough now that many painters do not create paintings that represent reality realistically.


Oil on canvas.  Artists experiment with different types of paint and different sizes of canvas.



After World War II.  Pure abstraction and expression without form.  Popular art is about consumerism (the culture of buying products).



Armenian/American.  Flat surfaces on rounded shapes.  His studio burned down, he broke his neck and couldn't use his painting arm, had cancer, his wife left him and took his children, so he hung himself in this 40s.




Splashed paint on a canvas.  His art was more about the process of painting than the product. He used house paints and large canvases.  He used large ladders and dripped paint down the canvas.  He also used sticks or wooden pieces to slap the paint onto the canvas.  He was an alcoholic and died in a alcohol related car accident.Mostly reclusive artist.



De Kooning 

painted women.  his lines are very strong.  He used color to focus attention.  His paintings look like cubism but blurry...a cubist with bad eyesight.1949. oil on canvas, Block of colors. He believed that color was the only way to express feelings in a way that everyone would understand. He also felt like he never quite got it and killed himself.






Blocks of color.  Rothko believed that color was the only way to express feelings in a way that everyone would understand.

 Was a Russian born American painter





American.  made clothing and destroyed all of his early work.  His paintings look like Rothko but cleaner.  He used a thin vertical stripe that he called a "zip" in most of his works.

                   Newman Barnett - Twelfth Station - 1965



Continue to the next lesson.  Go to the top of the page and click on "Pop Art"



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