Monday, April 4, 2011

Franz Kline

Franz Kline, who is best known for his work in black and white, was one of many abstract expressionists of his time, exhibiting in the Eagan Gallery in 1950. He was largely effected by artists such as Jackson Pollock through their works and through his friendship with Willem de Kooning. Later in his career, he managed to incorporate color as effectively as his forte, black and white.

Up until sometime in 1949, Kline's sketches for his paintings were rather small, measuring in inches. He drew on more than just small pads however, choosing to draw on what was on hand. Some of such were: napkins, the backs of bills, or menus. After a fated visit to one of his friends who was utilizing a Bell-Opticon to enlarge small sketches, Franz forever changed. He began drawing on canvas that measured in feet instead. This reflected in his works, as he began to paint increasingly larger scale.

Franz Kooning had to retire in the winter of 1961-62 due to a recurrent illness, which later claimed his life the following May. He was 51 when he passed.

Information from: Franz Kline Memorial Exhibition published by the Washington Gallery of Modern Art.

Image from: from Nather Bowers' photostream

Willem de Kooning

Saturday Night (1956), Oil on Canvas, 68 3/4 x 79"

Willem de Kooning (born April 24, 1904) once started out as a "commercial" artist. He studied in night classes while apprenticing to other commercial artists. In 1926 he became one of many stowaways to travel to the United States, a year later finding himself in Manhattan. During his time here he was inspired by other artists of his time: Arshille Gorky, Franz Kline and, somewhat noticeable in his later work, Jackson Pollack.

His early influences were reflecting European and Mexican Art. However, it wasn't until the early 1930's when he began to explore Abstract Art and started to use simple geometric shapes to convey his voice on canvas. His most controversial art was his pieces of women in the 1950's. de Kooning began to paint exclusively of in later in his career, making abstract forms of the female body. His geometric shapes, painting abstract yet concrete at the same time. His women have ghastly appearances, which suggest sexuality, but at the same time is exploding with color and runaway lines that it can hardly stand for anything. Crowds were intrigued, but also furious at suggesting that women could ever be shown in such a manner.

(above) Seated Woman (1952),

Pencil, Pastel and Oil on two sheets of paper,

12 1/8 x 9 1/2"

Due to his diagnoses of Alzheimzer Disease in 1980, his work began few and far in between, being seen with less substance than his earlier work. As time drew on, de Kooning's work became less active, yet more lucrative at the same time, his earlier pieces selling for millions. He died March 19, 1997, leaving his works of Abstract Expressionism to the masses, to refer to it as how they wanted it to be.

"Whatever an artist's personal feelings are, as soon as an artist fills a certain area on the canvas or circumscribes it, he becomes historical. He acts from or upon other artists"-Willem de Kooning

Sources: 1. 2. 3. (Quote) Images: 1. (Saturday Night) Copyright: The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artist Right Society (ARS), New York 2.(Seated Woman) Copyright: The Willem de Kooning Foundation/ Arist Right Society (ARS), New York

Mark Rothko

A Mark Rothko painting is usually identified as a large abstract painting with two or more hovering fields of color against a colored ground. However, he did not develop this signature style until much later in his career. Mark Rothko was born Marcus Rothkowitz in Dvinsk, Russia on September 25, 1903. His family imigrated to the United States when he was 10 years old where they settled in Portland Oregon. Rothko attended Yale in 1921 with intentions to become an engineer or an attorney; however, in the fall of 1923 he gave up his studies and moved to New York City. Once in New York he attended art classes at the Art Students League. In the 1930s Rothko painted mostly street scenes and interiors with figures. Many of these scenes were of the New York subway. The figures in these paintings are usually faceless and flat. Soon Rothko left out the figures all together. He said, "It was with the utmost reluctance that i found the figure could not serve my purposes.....But a time came when none of us could us the figure without mutilating it." By the late 1940s asymmetrically arranged patches of color had become the basis of his paintings. In 1950 Rothko had reduced the number of floating rectangles to two, three, or four and aligned them vertically against a colored ground, arriving at his signature style. The colors were applied in thin washes giving his work new luminosity. While moving toward abstraction Rothko said, "We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth" Rothkos work bgan to darken by the late 1950s, and on February 25, 1970 Rothko committed suicide after being physically ill and suffering from depression.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Barnett Newman, an Abstract Expressionist

Barnett Newman is known as one of the major figures of abstract expressionism, especially as a color field painter, next to his friends Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. Abstract expressionists were determined to prove that American artwork was not second rate compared to what Europeans, especially the French, were creating. As a collective, the abstract expressionists generally worked on large scale works, and rather than paint traditional imagery or traditional content, their paintings were more individualized, drawing from their own feeling and existence, matter, and human spirit.

Throughout the 1930’s Barnett Newman did a number of works that could be described as an expressionist style, but he eventually destroyed all of them. His first surviving artwork was made in 1945, three years prior to his first art exhibition. Up until this point Newman had studied Philosophy at the College of New York, and worked as a writer, critic, and exhibition organizer. Throughout the 1940’s Newman worked in a very surrealist style, characterized by multi-tonal vibrant monochromatic color separated by thin vertical lines he called “zips.” The zips are used as devices to divide the color, but rather than divide the canvas into separate large paintings, they actually lend unity and structure to the composition as a whole. Later in his life Newman used hard edged areas of flat color, which can be viewed as a source of inspiration for later minimalist works.

Photo By Willy Gobetz

The large size of Newman’s paintings is very indicative of his art philosophy. For Newman, he wanted people to view the art and get a sense of the scale, and to also understand that there is a mystery and a metaphysical fact held within the painting. Newman stated with regards to this concept that he and his colleges “favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the unequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.” He hoped that his paintings would give his viewers the feeling of their own totality, separateness, and individuality, but at the same time express their connection to all others.

"Barnett Newman." Absolute Astronomy. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Apr 2011.

"Barnett Newman and Frank Stella; Art and the Sublime." The Free Library. N.p., 2008. Web. 3 Apr 2011.

"Chronology of the Artist’s Life." The Barnett Newman Foundation. N.p., 2005. Web. 3 Apr 2011.

Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. He was the first of his colleagues to earn respect from the European art world by developing a technique that he called "pour painting," which is also known as drip painting.
His life first began in Wyoming, but soon was relocated West where they moved between California and Arizona for the next 16 years. Soon after his family moved once again, to Los Angeles where they finally set roots. Pollock soon joined the Manual Arts High School where he first pursued his passion of art. While there he was introduced to metaphysical and occult spirituality which would later come into play in his paintings.
However, In 1930 Pollock decided to move to New York to join his brother who studied under Thomas Hart Benton. For the next 8 years Pollock analyzed the work of Benton who revealed techniques as well as artists such as Albert Pinkham Ryder who strongly influenced him. Others influences include that of, Jose' Clemente Orozco, Joan Miro, and Pablo Picasso.
In 1937' Jackson was going trough treatment for alcoholism, and in 1938 was institutionalized for a nervous breakdown. Soon after his release his painting style became more abstract departing from his landscape style into his drip style. A few more years down the road he landed a job with the heris of the Guggenheim Museum, Peggy Guggenheim. He worked producing art for her gallery while getting paid 150$ a month.
In 45' Pollock married his wife Lee Krasner, who was also a painter. They moved to East Hampton where they lived on a farm with a garage that Jackson renovated into a studio. He would work outside with his canvas on the ground to be able to move around the painting to create a much more interactive approach. His studio allowed him to work in a more comfortable environment, allowing him to produce the vast amount of paintings that were show at different galleries between 1940 - 47'.
Pollock soon after began to spiral out of control. He became infamous mostly due to his dependency on alcohol. He also began an affair with a mistress who he would be with at the time of his death.
Although he died at an unstable part in his life, Pollock will always be remember by the foundation of art work he produced that led the way to such an influential movement in art. He laid the ground work for many artist to follow while gaining recognition as one of the first American artists to be famous in his time.

Richard Diebenkorn

Image of Ocean Park No. 24, Oil on Canvas by Richard Diebenkorn

"It wasn't art that I was interested in; it was drawing and painting...I had no real understanding of drawing and painting as art."- Richard Diebenkorn
For a man that was interested in art he most certainly acquired some kind of understanding of it because throughout Diebenkorn's life he became one of the most influential American Abstract Expressionists. Diebenkorn was born in Portland Oregon on April 22, 1922, his family relocated to San Francisco two years after that. Although is parents were not particularly supportive of his interest in the arts, Diebenkorn found encouragement in his grandmother, who fostered his visual imagination by giving him illustrated books, taking him to local galleries and impressing upon him a love for European heraldic imagery.

Diebenkorn disappointed his parents by choosing art as his major for his undergraduate studies at Stanford University in 1940. There he met Daniel Mendolowitz, one of his art history professors and mentors who introduced the aspiring painter to the work of modernists such as Henri Matisse and Edward Hopper, whose works would prove formative to Diebenkorn's artistic development. Diebenkorn married in 1943 and enlisted into the U.S. Marine Corps directly after, serving for two years. The young artist then returned to California and used his GI Bill to enroll in the California School of Fine Arts, and soon became a faculty member a year after. In the 1950s, Diebenkorn pursued his Master of Fine Arts degree at the University of New Mexico. Throughout the 1950s he moved between across the nation gaining inspiration from it all. While in the Southwest in acquired the use of bright planes of color in organic shapes and borrowed techniques from New York.

Diebenkorn was such a talent, but this only came from many years of study. He was truly influenced by Clyfford Still, Arshile Gorky, Willem De Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Edward Hopper. He was also inspired by some critics of the time- David Park and Daniel Mendelowitz. Another thing the pushed Diebenkorn in an international spotlight was his involvement in the San Fransisco-Bay Area School artists. Many of the artists involved were those who were mentioned above-his influences.

Richard Diebenkorn achiecved a rare feat in the life of an artist, which is to approach painting from many different angles and to take earnest inspiration from other artists while maintaining originality. Although Diebenkorn did not reach the level of fame of Abstract Expressionists of the New York School, his influence on artists of the latter half of the 20th century is undeniable.
Image of Diebenkorn in the 1950s

Information From:

A Concise History of American Painting and Sculpture by Matthew Baigell Article written by Kara Fiedorek

Images From:

Mark Tobey

(Mark Tobey at Geyserville Baha'i school in 1944)

Photo taken by Arthur L. Dahl

The American painter, poet, and composer Mark Tobey was born in Centerville, Wisconsin in December 11, 1890. Tobey was the youngest of 4 siblings whose parents were George and Emma Tobey. George Tobey, Mark's father, was a capenter and house builder. Mark Tobey was mostly self-taught but did study at the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois. In 1918, Tobey converted to Bahaism. His Persian beliefs had a great impact on his life and his art as the following quote from Tobey explains:

"The root of all religions from the Baha'i point of view, is based on the theory that man will gradually come to understand the unity of the world and the oneness of mankind. It teaches that all prohets are one- that science and religion are based on two great powers which must be balanced if man is to become mature. I feel my work has been influenced by these beliefs. I've tried to decentralize and interpenetrate so that all parts of a painting are of a related value..Mine are the Orient, the Occident, science, religion, cities, space, and writting a picture."

Mark Tobey traveled all around the world and in one of his travels he was introduced to Chinese caligraphy and Arab and Persian writing. Because of these skills he picked up in his travels, Tobey was often compared to Jackson Pollock because of his style of painting. Tobey used a method he called "white writting" which is an overlay of white or light colored caligraphic symbols on an abstract field of thousands of small and interwoven brush strokes.

"A painting should be a textile, a texture. That's enough! Perhaps I was influenced by my mother. She used to sew and sew. I can still see that needle going. Maybe that's what I'd rather do than anything with the brush-like stitching over and over and over, laying it in, going over, bringing it up, bringing it up. That's what is difficult."

Sources: Google images, and

Friday, April 1, 2011

Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler, born in New York City, in 1927, is considered to be a transitional artist between Abstract Expressionism and Color-Field painting. Color-Field Painting is similar to Abstract Expressionism and emerged in New York City in the 1940's and was inspired by European modernism.

Frankenthaler attended Dalton School where she studied under Rufino Tamayo as well as Bennington college. After college, she returned to her native land where she met Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollack and Arshile Gorky where she was inspired to join the generation of Abstract Expressionism. Frankenthaler receives a lot of credit for being one of the first Abstract Expressionists as well as the first female to focus on Abstract Expressionism. Eventually, Frankenthaler had great impact on many artists such as Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, and many more.

Throughout the years, Frankenthaler has received many awards; her most recent awards were the National Medal of Arts, which she obtained in 2001, and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting (2003). She currently resides and works in Connecticut.

(Above: Madame Butterfuly, Helen Frankenthaler)