The modern art/contemporary art movement of Abstract Expressionism was in full flow by 1946. The pioneers of Abstract Expressionism were Jackson Pollock and his partner Lee Krasner, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Clyfford Still, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and Philip Guston. These artists formed the New York School.
The idea behind Abstract Expressionism was to focus on the rawness of art, colour, the relationship between paint and canvas, and the process of painting itself. Abstract Expressionism was the outcome of a need for the artist wanting to demonstrate their passion for painting itself, through a subconscious and spontaneous process.
The modern art/contemporary art movement of Abstract expressionism derived its name through the relationship of abstraction and expressionist values being converged into one process.
Abstract Expressionism started to become less popular towards the 1960s. The modern art movement of Pop Art was the new kid on the block and focus started to shift greatly away from Abstract Expressionism and towards the up and coming modern art/contemporary art movement of Pop Art.
1880 – 1966
Hans Hofmann was born in Weissburg, Baveria, Germany. Hans Hofmann’s background was mathematics and physics. In 1896 his father helped him take a position as assistant to the director of public works for the state of Bavaria where he developed his understanding of mathematics and invented an electromagnetic comptometer.
In 1898 his interests changed and Hofmann studied painting at the Moritz Heymann art school in Munich. In this period he was heavily influenced by the modern art movement of impressionism.
In 1903 Hans Hofmann met Phillip Freudenberg who became his patron which made it possible for him to move to Paris.
In 1904 Hofmann started to frequent the Café du Dome which the likes of Matisse, Braque and Picasso also frequented and later were introduced to Hans Hofmann.
In 1910 Hans Hofmann held his first solo exhibition held in Berlin. He started his friendship with Robert Delaunay who influenced Hans Hofmann to explore the attributes of colour.
In 1934 Hans Hofmann opened the ‘Hans Hofmann School of fine arts’ in New York. Lee Krasner studied with Hans Hofmann at the ‘Hans Hofmann School of fine arts’.
Hans Hoffman’s abstract expressionist paintings are composed of squares and rectangular random patterns combined with volatile and vivid colour.
1910 – 1962
Franz Kline was born in Pennsylvania, USA. Kline studied at Boston University, he took classes at the Boston Art Students League for four years starting from 1931. In 1935 Franz Kline moved to London and attended Heatherley’s school of art and studied there for two years.
In 1939 Franz Kline settled permanently in New York where he developed his style of cityscapes and landscapes consisting of images involving the coal mining district.
Kline was fortunate in the fact that he had two sponsors, Dr. Theodore J. Edlich, Jr and I. David Orr. These two sponsors commissioned and bought many works from Franz Kline.
In 1943 Franz Kline met Willem de Kooning and a few years later Jackson Pollock. At this time Franz Kline’s influences were revolved around Japanese art styles. Kline’s relationship with Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock with the addition of the Japanese influences engaged Franz Kline to mature his modern art style into his period of bold black and white enamel brush strokes on canvas.
Franz Kline was one of the main pioneers in the modern art movement of Abstract Expressionism.
1912 – 1956
Jackson Pollock was born in Wyoming, USA. He started studying painting in 1928 at the manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. In 1930 Jackson Pollock moved to New York and began studying under Thomas Hart Benton at the art students league.
Jackson Pollock spent much of the 1930s traveling throughout the USA. In 1934 Pollock decided to settle permanently. Pollock started work on the WPA federal art project which spanned from 1935 to 1942.
Jackson Pollock’s style progressed and evolved after working in David Alfaro Siqueiros’s experimental New York workshop.
Pollock’s style prior to the late 1940s reflected such modern art movements as Surrealism and Cubism. Pollock was much inspired by Pablo Picasso and the surrealists.
In the early 1940s Jackson Pollock exhibited surrealist and abstract art at exhibitions around New York.
Jackson Pollock hit the big time when he landed his first solo show held at Peggy Guggenheim’s ‘Art of this centaury’ gallery in New York. Peggy Guggenheim became Jackson Pollock’s sponsor and presented Pollock with a contract in 1947. This meant that Jackson Pollock could devote his time to the art of painting.
Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner married in 1945 and moved out of New York to lead a life without city distractions so that Pollock could focus on his art work.
In 1950 his work was featured at the Venice Biennale at a time when his art had reached international acclaim.
Jackson Pollock died in a car accident on August 11th, 1956 near his house in the springs, East Hampton, New York.
Lee Krasner was born in Brooklyn, New York. Krasner was of Russian decent, her parents were Russian immigrants.
In 1926 Krasner studied at the Cooper Union where she developed her early styles and in 1928 Krasner joined the Art Students’ League. She left the cooper union in 1929 and began studies at the National Academy of Design in order to further her artistic focus.
In 1934 Lee Krasner started work on the Public works of art projected and was fully employed.
Lee Krasner started her studies under Hans Hofmann in 1937 at the ‘Hans Hofmann School of fine arts’ in New York.
In 1941 Lee Krasner crossed paths with Jackson Pollock and further in 1945 married Jackson Pollock.
Lee Krasner decided to decrease the level of art output that she was creating in order to focus on Jackson Pollock’s artistic career.
In 1956 Pollock dies in a fatal car accident
Krasner sufferes an almost fatal brain aneurysm in 1962 which rendered her unstable. She lived for a further 22 years dying at the age of 76 in 1984.
1905 – 1970
Barnett Newman was born in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York. His parents were from Poland and immigrated to New York 5 years before Newman was born.
In 1919 Barnett Newman attended the De Witt Clinton High School in Manhattan. Barnett Newman’s love for art originated at this period of his life. It was documented that Newman would regularly skip school to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
During the autumn of Newman’s senior year at school he began intensive drawing classes six days a week.
In 1923 Barnett Newman became part of the Art Students League. Newman dropped out of School in 1921 and started life as an artist. He ventured cross Europe with Adolph Gottlieb (also part of the Art Students League). Barnett Newman, after his travels decided to complete high school.
In 1927 Newman graduates from City College of New York. His father invited Barnett Newman to enter the family business in order to gain savings to support Newman’s career.
The stock market crashes and in 1929 Barnett Newman father’s clothing company is hit hard.
Barnett Newman left his fathers company and concentrated on art. His style is recognised as the foundation of Abstract Expressionism as we know it.