"Abstract expressionism was the first American art that was filled with anger as well as beauty." -Robert Motherwell
America has played a significant role in change, innovation and artistry throughout both the 20th and 21st centuries. Many of the world’s great innovations were birthed in the United States and it is undisputedly a world leader in a great many sectors.
America’s artists, movie stars and many inventors have been a source of great inspiration for many others from Europe and the UK.
One of its great artistic developments, abstract expressionism or expressionistic artwork as it is also known, has shaped the work of many modern artists all over the world.
A Brief History of Abstract Expressionism
When you think of Abstract Expressionism, (AE) or expressionistic artwork, what comes to mind? Do you imagine abstract art that seems hard to understand and much larger than life?
If so, you're not far off.
Abstract Expressionism art is a movement that followed shortly after World War 2 in the United States. This was unusual because most other art movements were birthed in Europe, most notably in cities like Paris and Rome.
Nonetheless, even though expressionist artwork didn’t originate in historical and cultural European cities, it doesn’t make it any less important.
Expressionist painting in New York during the 1950s gave rise to some of America’s most acclaimed artists, many of whom have shaped many of the abstract expressionism characteristics that we see today.
But, why is it called Abstract Expressionism art?
Also called New York School, expressionistic painting or expressionistic artwork in general aimed to create work that was vague and abstract while remaining expressive at the same time.
Artists from the Abstract Expressionism art period believed that masterful creations should flow from the unconscious.
So what other abstract expressionism characteristics are worth noting?
Let’s take a look.
Unique Abstract Expressionism Characteristics
Like most art periods, Abstract Expressionism art has various identifiable characteristics that differentiate it from Romance and other art movements. The following list contains many abstract expressionism characteristics:
- Immense in scale and ambition
- Evoking a spirit of American individualism and independence
- Often featuring the drip technique made famous by Pollock
- Expressionist painting falls into two categories: colour field painting and action painting
- Balances chaos and control
- Expressionistic painting is imaginative and authentic
It is important that these abstract expressionism characteristics are present in a piece for it to be defined or categorised as expressionist artwork.
Renowned Abstract Expressionism Art
To better define expressionistic artwork, it is helpful to have visual examples of sculptures, paintings and collages that meet the criteria discussed above. Here are a few noteworthy and acclaimed pieces from this movement.
- Autumn Rhythm: undoubtedly Jackson Pollock's most celebrated work and perhaps his magnum opus, Autumn Rhythm, was finished in 1950 and displayed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Autumn Rhythm features crucial examples of Pollock's drip technique. Some experts credit the Autumn Rhythm as an exemplary expressionist painting.
- Excavation: Willem de Kooning’s masterful, Excavation is a critical part of his expressionist painting collection. It features multiple forms, shapes and outlines. Excavation is an example of a lot of the movement and imagery that is currently seen in expressionistic artwork.
- White Flag: Jasper John’s White Flag is, without doubt, one of his most marvellous works. Though the most recognisable flag on the planet, its bleached, composite appearance makes it a formidable example of expressionistic artwork that truly leaves its viewers in awe.
While these are only a smattering of the many notable examples of expressionist painting available today, they are a good place to start.
For more information on these and other masterful works of this era, keep reading.
Artists Famous for Their Expressionistic Artwork
For art to become a movement that is remembered and viewed as important to historians and noteworthy artists it has to stand the test of time.
It is important to look at the expressionist painting, sculptors and drawings of this era to fully understand it. Here are a few examples to begin your study.
- Jackson Pollock: it is not possible for an article regarding famous expressionist painting to exclude the work of Jackson Pollock. Known as the father of Abstract Expressionism, his techniques have been the source of methodical study for decades. Born in 1912 in Wyoming, Pollock’s work during the 1940s and 1950s are known as masterpieces. In particular, his drip method and all-round expressionist painting methods have been praised by celebrated artists from every corner of the world.
- Lee Krasner: married to Pollock, Krasner not only positively influenced Pollock’s work but had much success of her own. Choosing to specialise in collages, she spent the entirety of her career in New York where she was featured in many retrospective exhibitions in famous museums like MoMA. Krasner, having begun her art career as a teenager worked throughout her life and sold paintings worth millions to private collectors.
- Joan Mitchell: inspired by Cezanne, Van Gogh and Monet, Mitchell became extremely famous during her life as an Abstract Expressionist painter. Active during the 1950s, she was well known in New York School of painters circles. Mitchell was well known for using pastels to create work that was softer looking than her contemporaries. She is also famed for creating an unusual lyrical and emotional direction to her work.
If you are a serious art enthusiast, you will certainly benefit from taking an in-depth look into the work of the artists mentioned above. Although each one is unique and different to the rest, you will notice many similar abstract expressionism characteristics, all of which have made an impressive impact on the history of art all over the world.
Taking Abstract Expressionism Lessons with a Private Tutor
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Regardless of what academic discipline you have decided to study, art topics like Abstract Expressionism are certainly included and you could easily find a private tutor from wherever you are in South Africa. And these days with the availability of the internet and the major advances made in video conferencing software, e-learning has become the norm for just about any subject under the sun.
You could try finding a private art tutor through a general internet search which could take a lot of time and not offer the reassurance that comes with word of mouth recommendations. Alternatively, you could head straight to the Superprof platform where there are hundreds of tutors all of whom have had their credentials pre-verified for your peace of mind.
Another benefit to using Superprof is that you could benefit from a free first lesson which is a brilliant way to find out whether you and the tutor are a good personality fit or not. At this meeting, you can discuss your history of art goals and make sure that you share a passion for similar art movements.
Superprof tutors are available for private or group online lessons and if you would like face-to-face lessons, you can simply use the website's location finder to see if there is someone close to you.
In terms of affordability, you might be surprised. In South Africa, you could find a private art teacher for around R200 per lesson depending on where you are and their type of qualification and experience.
On Superprof, there are tutors for every level of ability and budget and the bonus is that there are heaps of qualified tutors all situated on one platform so you won’t need to jump around on Google. Don’t forget to check out any reviews they may have from past students on their profile page for extra peace of mind.
History of art is a complex subject that many art students are required to pass. A private tutor can help guide you through exam preparation and give you sound advice on how to best use your time to navigate such content-heavy subject matter.
When you have a tutor by your side, the panic of a subject like history of art is easily managed so that you actually get to enjoy it and retain the information that is required.
Finally, understanding Abstract Expressionism, as well as the other art movements through the ages, will help you to fully appreciate one of the most wonderful aspects of art and the brilliance of creativity.
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