Color Field Painting ~ Post Painterly Abstraction ~ Lyrical Abstraction ~ Art History
There is a 16 slide preview, 4 thumbnails and the excerpt from the overview, below. These are your best indicators for estimating whether the product will suit you. It is a complete presentation of the many forms of abstract art which splintered off from Abstract Expressionism. There is also a FREE POSTER which goes with this, located here:
Color Field Painting is a style of American abstract painting which features big expanses of unmodulated color. This color saturates most or all of the canvas. The artists’ chief concern is pushing the expressive power of color to the nth degree. When the viewer gets close to the canvas, it should envelop that viewer as an immersive experience in color.
Color Field Painting did make a major innovation to painting. It eliminated form or mass needing to stand out against a background. Instead, it is all one, an immense field, which seems to spread out beyond the edges of the canvas.
Originally, only three American painters belonged to Color Field Painting: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still.
It was Barnett Newman’s Ideographic Picture exhibit for the Betty Parsons Gallery which was the beginning of the splintering among the abstract painters. Newman gathered together Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Hans Hofmann for it.
Newman wanted an abstract art that would jettison all figurative or quasi-figurative motifs. He wrote in the Ideographic Picture Exhibit’s catalog that he was looking for, "a vehicle for an abstract thought-complex.”
The Color Field painters were increasingly viewed as apart from the abstract gesture painters, who were still part of Abstract Expressionism.
Eventually, more painters added new aspects into the use of color and found kinship with the original three of Rothko, Still and Newman. This was seen as part of the shift to Post Painterly Abstraction.
Some of the painters could not draw. This was not a handicap for them. It may even have been a benefit. One can’t get distracted by the figurative if one can’t do the figurative.
Helen Frankenthaler, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Alma Thomas, Paul Jenkins and Sam Gilliam were all abstract painters who were included in these expanded abstract groupings.
Forms in color appeared in these abstract paintings. Morris Louis, for example, made veils of paint pouring down the canvas. Paul Jenkins manipulated flowing paint into “phenomena.” Helen Frankenthaler “stained” paint into her canvas, often into blooming shapes.
Critic Clement Greenberg backed both Color Field Painting and Post Painterly Abstraction. Greenberg and Frankenthaler were lovers at the time so it is possible that these distinctions, at least in part, were made by Greenberg to specifically benefit Frankenthaler.
Greenberg defined Post Painterly Abstraction as follows:
lacked detail and an event in the painting (no subject matter needed)
so openly composed that the human eye travels beyond the canvas
could have a decorative element
the artists were not caught up in the melodrama, metaphysical experimentation, psychoanalysis and grandiosity of the Abstract Expressionists.
As one goes through the definition, Color Field Painting seems to fit within most of it. Clement Greenberg eventually divided abstract art into three parts: Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting and Post-Painterly Abstractions. He died in 1994 so was stopped from making further abstract subdivisions.
To make matters more complex, there was yet another mid to later 20th century abstract art movement known as Lyrical Abstraction which appeared. This movement occurred both in Europe and in America.
In Europe, it was centered in France which had been devastated in every way possible by WWII, including loss of its position in the arts.
American expatriates living and working in Paris became part of the movement. Paul Jenkins was one of them.
This movement also uses the term anti-Greenbergian in reference to itself. This means it was reacting against the strictures of art critic Clement Greenberg about abstract art.
Many of the very same artists we’ve studied in all the other forms of abstraction also appear in Lyrical Abstraction. There are some basic characteristics which are listed with such artists, including:
intuitive, loose paint handling of rich, fluid color
an occasional image (you can see something in the painting)
These are characteristics which appear in other abstract movements as well.
Dan Christensen, Friedel Dzubas, Sam Francis, Paul Jenkins, Ronnie Landfield, Pat Lipsky, Helen Frankenthaler, Richard Diebenkorn, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Jack Bush, Frank Stella and Jules Olitski are just some of the artists included with the Lyrical Abstractionists. These artists are also included in Clement Greenberg’s Movements.
Today, if one looks up an abstract artist online, one may see multiple movements beside that artist’s name. This occurs because the distinctions are so fine that very few are certain about just picking one of those movements. Helen Frankenthaler is a case in point.
On wikiart.org Helen Frankenthaler is listed as being in both Abstract Expressionism and Post-Painterly Abstraction. There is no mention made of the Color Field painting yet she is elsewhere included as such. Wikiart.org separately lists her as an abstract artist though so that the average person reading the listing knows what she paints.
Wikipedia, next page, likewise lists her as an abstract painter but drops Post Painterly Abstraction. Wikipedia includes her in Abstract Expressionism, Color Field Painting and Lyrical Abstraction.
The Art Story online puts her into Abstract Expressionism and Color Field Painting.
If you do a search on other abstract painters, you should obtain similar results.
One must finally factor in that most of the art viewing public does not care about these distinctions, if they even realize they exist.
This is because when abstract art came in, the vast majority of those going to art museums simply divided art in their heads into the realistic and the abstract. They did, and do not, further break it down. Many art museum goers do not like abstract art, no matter what further changes one makes to it. As they put it, they want to see something, recognize something, when they look at a painting.
This presentation focuses on the artists in all of these splinter abstract movements. No one could ever mistake them for realists. If one were to call every single one of them “an abstract artist,” and leave it at that, that would be a correct statement.