Key Dates: 1940-1960
Emerging in the 1940s in New York City and flourishing in the Fifties, Abstract Expressionism is regarded by many as the golden age of American art. The movement is marked by its use of brushstrokes and texture, the embracing of chance and the frequently massive canvases, all employed to convey powerful emotions through the glorification of the act of painting itself.
Some of the key figures of the movement were Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell and Franz Kline. Although their works vary greatly in style, for example the sprawling pieces of Pollock at one end of the spectrum and the brooding works of Rothko at the other, yet they all share the same outlook which is one of freedom of individual expression.
The term was originally used to describe the work of Kandinsky but was adopted by writers in the Fifties as a way of defining the American movement, although the practitioners, disliking being pigeonholed, preferred the term New York School.
The movement was enormously successful both critically and commercially. The result was such that New York came to replace Paris as the centre for contemporary art and the repercussions of this extraordinarily influential movement can still be felt thirty years after its heyday.