ArtLex Art Dictionary

AAction Painting - A style of abstract painting that uses techniques such as the dribbling or splashing of paint to achieve a spontaneous effect. In Action Painting the canvas is the arena in which the artist acts. The action of painting becomes a moment in the biography of the artist -- the canvas becomes the index (record) of the event. Most associated with several of the Abstract Expressionist artists, including Willem De Kooning (Dutch, 1904-1997, active in the US) and Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), though not all Abstract Expressionists were Action Painters.

Examples:

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightWillem de Kooning (American, born Netherlands, 1904-1997), Woman, 1944, oil and charcoal on canvas, 46 x 32 inches (116.8 x 81.3 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

 

 

see thumbnail to leftWillem de Kooning, Night, 1948, oil on canvas, 23 x 28 inches, Minneapolis Institute of Arts. See nocturne.

 

 

see thumbnail to rightFranz Kline (American, 1910-1962), Palmerton, Pa., 1941, painting, National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

see thumbnail to leftFranz Kline, Two Seated Women, ink and pastel on paper, sheet 22.4 x 29.9 cm, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, CA.

 

 

Franz Kline, New York, N.Y., 1953, oil on canvas, 79 x 51 in. (200.6 x 129.5 cm), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.

 

 

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightFranz Kline, Untitled, c. 1954, oil on paper, 11 x 8 1/2 inches, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to leftFranz Kline, Four Square, 1956, oil on canvas, 1.99 x 1.29 m (78 3/8 x 50 3/4 inches), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

see thumbnail to rightFranz Kline, C & O, 1958, oil on canvas, 1.96 x 2.79 m (77 x 110 inches), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

Franz Kline, Siskind, 1958, oil on canvas, Detroit Institute of Arts, MI.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to leftFranz Kline, Untitled, c. 1959, National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightFranz Kline, Merce C, 1961, National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

see thumbnail to leftFranz Kline, Untitled, 1961, National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.

 

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightJackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), The Moon-Woman Cuts the Circle, 1943, oil on canvas, 109.5 x 104 cm, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris. See the WebMuseum's page about Pollock.

 

 

see thumbnail to leftJackson Pollock, Night Mist, 1945, oil on canvas, Norton Museum, West Palm Beach, FL.

 

 

Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas, 71 1/2 x 35 1/8 inches (181.6 x 89.2 cm), Dallas Museum of Art.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightJackson Pollock, Number 26 A, Black and White, 1948, oil on canvas, 205 x 121.7 cm, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to leftJackson Pollock, Painting (Silver over Black, White, Yellow and Red), 1948, painting on paper mounted on canvas, 61 x 80 cm, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightJackson Pollock, Autumn Rhythm (#30), 1950, oil on canvas, 105 x 207 inches (266.7 x 525.8 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY.

 

 

see thumbnail to leftJackson Pollock, One (Number 31, 1950), 1950, oil and enamel on unprimed canvas, 8 feet 10 inches x 17 feet 5 5/8 inches (269.5 x 530.8 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightJackson Pollock, The Deep, 1953, painting on canvas, 220.4 x 150.2 cm, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris.

 

 

Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991)

 

 

Philip Guston (American, 1913-1980), Barnett Newman (American, 1905-1970), c. 1960, ink on paper, Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy McKee Gallery, New York City.

 

see thumbnail to leftSam Francis (American, 1923-1994), In Lovely Blueness, 1955-1957, oil on canvas, 300 x 700 cm, Georges Pompidou Center, Paris.

 

 

Helen Frankenthaler (American, 1928-).

 

 

Photographs of the artists:

 

 

 

see thumbnail to leftNina Leen (American, 1909-1995), The Irascibles, 1950, Life magazine. Front row, left to right: Theodore Stamos, Jimmy Ernst (son of Max Ernst), Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko. Middle row: Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin. Back row: Willem De Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, and Hedda Sterne.

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightArthur Swoger (American, 1912-), Philip Guston in his New York loft, 1957, gelatin silver print, Estate of Philip Guston, courtesy McKee Gallery, New York City.

 

 

see thumbnail to leftHans Namuth (American, 1915-1990), Pollock painting, 1950, gelatin silver prints, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. This is one of at least five photographs Namuth made of Pollock painting. Their publication in Life magazine in 1951 caused a great sensation.

 

 

Here is see thumbnail to righta second one,

 

 

see thumbnail to lefta third,

 

 

see thumbnail to righta fourth,

 

 

see thumbnail to leftand a fifth.

 

 

 

 

see thumbnail to rightHans Namuth, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Tony Smith at the Betty Parsons Gallery, gelatin silver print, April 1951, National Portrait Gallery, Washington, DC.

 

 

The nearest equivalent European movement is Tachisme.

 

 

 


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