(1943-1965) New York Abstract Expressionism

Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, and Mark Rothko. Others included Joan Mitchell, Hans Hofmann, Clyfford Still, Philip Guston, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Lee Krasner, Bradley Walker Tomlin, William Baziotes, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Pousette-Dart, Elaine de Kooning, Alfred Leslie and Jack Tworkov.

Abstract expressionism is a post-World War II art movement in American painting, developed in New York City in the 1940s. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York at the center of the Western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.

During the period leading up to and during World War II, modernist artists, writers, and poets, as well as important collectors and dealers, fled Europe and the onslaught of the Nazis for safe haven in the United States. Among the artists and collectors who arrived in New York during the war were Hans Namuth, Yves Tanguy, Kay Sage, Max Ernst, Jimmy Ernst, Peggy Guggenheim, Leo Castelli, Marcel Duchamp, André Masson, Roberto Matta, André Breton, Marc Chagall, Jacques Lipchitz, Fernand Léger, and Piet Mondrian. A few artists, notably Picasso, Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard remained in France and survived.

During the late 1940s, Jackson Pollock's radical approach to painting revolutionized the potential for all Contemporary art that followed him. To some extent, Pollock realized that the journey toward making a work of art was as important as the work of art itself. Like Picasso's innovative reinventions of painting and sculpture near the turn of the century via Cubism and constructed sculpture, with influences as disparate as Navajo sand paintings, surrealism, Jungian analysis, and Mexican mural art, Pollock redefined what it was to produce art. His move away from easel painting and conventionality was a liberating signal to the artists of his era and to all that came after. Artists realized that Jackson Pollock's process—the placing of unstretched raw canvas on the floor where it could be attacked from all four sides using artist materials and industrial materials; linear skeins of paint dripped and thrown; drawing, staining, brushing; imagery and non-imagery—essentially took art-making beyond any prior boundary. Abstract expressionism in general expanded and developed the definitions and possibilities that artists had available for the creation of new works of art.

The other abstract expressionists followed Pollock's breakthrough with new breakthroughs of their own. In a sense the innovations of Jackson Pollock, de Kooning, Franz Kline, Rothko, Philip Guston, Hans Hofmann, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Richard Pousette-Dart, Robert Motherwell, and Peter Voulkos followed by Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Alfred Leslie, Joan Mitchell, and others opened the floodgates to the diversity and scope of all the art that followed them.