Abstract Expressionists of Painting

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Abstract Expressionists of the 19th Century – Canvas/Painting

Figure 1
1940
The Glazier
Willem de Kooning
Painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Willem de Kooning’s The Glazier, is an abstract expressionist painting from the 19th Century. De Kooning’s use of a figurative subject in The Glazier, makes it less mainstream abstract expressionism, an area in which he was seen as a leader. The Somber earth tones and ambiguous use of space give the painting a mysterious feel. Certain portions of the painting are very easy to identify and are well structured, for example the table covering, the vase, the face, right shoulder, and the trousers. While other areas of the paining, like the head, hands and arms, seem to fade away into sheets of color.

Figure 2
1940
Gladiators
Philip Guston
Painting
The Estate of Philip Guston

Philip Guston’s Gladiators is an abstract expressionist painting in which Guston applied a social-realistic style that was often preferred by left-leaning artists around the 1930s. While the modeling is very pronounced and there is a strong illusion of depth and volume, the colors and shapes of the objects, give the painting a cartoonish feel. The picture depicts conflict, but does not clearly articulate which subjects are the victimizers and which ones are the victims. All of the subject’s faces are covered; not to be identified. It’s almost as if the artist, Philip Guston, is struggling with is his own identity and whether or not he is a victim or victimizer.

Figure 3
1941-42
Symphony No. 1 The Transcendental
Richard Pousette – Dart
Painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Symphony #1, The Transcendental, is mural sized example of an Abstract Expressionism in the 19th Century. The work has a grid that spans across the canvas and appears sporadically throughout the painting. Pousette – Dart breaks away from the cubist structure to include diamonds, circles, ovals, arcs, teardrops and crosses. Occasionally, you can almost make out an object, potentially a bird in the lower left or a flower in the lower right. The grid and shapes are very apparent and clearly outlined, however, the image as a whole seems to shift in and out of focus possibly because Pousette-Dart wanted a piece of art that was “mysterious and transcending, yet solid and real.”

Figure 4
1947
Agony
Arshile Gorky
Painting
The Estate of Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky experienced several tragic events in his life, including a fire in his studio, a serious car accident, and cancer. The title of this painting, Agony, and the use of smoldering reds and suggests that the Gorky was transferring his own pain onto the canvas. Majority of the canvas is engulfed in red, possibly flames. To the left you can make out a man, his face smudged black. Although Arshile Gorky’s life tragically ended when he took his own life in 1948, his artwork had a profound impact on the art community and he is remembered as one of the first abstract expressionists.

Figure 5
1950
Autumn River (Number 30)
Jackson Pollack
Painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Pollacks, Autumn River (Number 30), is an Abstract Expressionist “drip” painting. Drip painting was a new approach that Pollack preferred where thinned paint was applied to un-stretched and unprimed canvas that lay flat on the floor rather than on an easel. Pollack used various methods to apply the paint to the canvas, including flicking, dripping, splattering, and using unconventional tools like knives and towels, rather than paint brushes. The Autumn River is 207 inches wide. The background is a beige tone covered in black and white swirls, lines, and drops. There is no significant vocal point of the painting; every part of the painting is equally significant.

Figure 6
1958
No. 13 (White, Red, on Yellow)
Mark Rothko
Painting
The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Mark Rothko’s No. 13 follows the compositional structure that he was most known for starting in...
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