Post-War and Pure Painting

After World War II, the United States took the lead in the formation of a vigorous new art movement.  A group of progressive artists known as the New York School developed Abstract Expressionism, a revolutionary way of painting.  They broke away from standard techniques and subject matter, and they made large-scale works that were reflections of their own feelings.  They used an abstract vocabulary that, in turn, everyone could bring their own meanings to be considered. These artists valued pure emotion, spontaneity and improvisation, and they thought that the physical process of painting was very important.  They placed an emphasis on dynamic, energetic gestures.

As the influence of Abstract Expressionism lessened in the 1960s, a vast variety of new movements and styles came to the art world.  For example, Op Artists created the impression of movement by using optical illusions. Many artists followed no movement and practiced styles that were uniquely their own.

  • Silence-Music I
    painted wood
    Louise Nevelson
    born Kiev, Ukraine 1899
    died New York, N.Y. 1988
    Gift of Mrs. Richard Jennings by exchange 2009.14

    Louise Nevelson was a member of the Abstract Expressionist circle in New York and a leading innovator in 20th century American sculpture.
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  • Massive Image
    acrylic on canvas
    Robert Motherwell
    born Aberdeen, Wash. 1915
    died Provincetown, Mass. 1991
    Museum purchase made possible by Doris E. Black; Donald F. Broda in honor of Kathleen L. Broda; Natalie Harris; Sally Foley Hughston; Pat Hurst Jordan, in memory of her parents, Dr. A. E. and Ruth Hurst; Jan J. Miller; Babette M. Rothschild; Sandy Bartlett Scarborough; Marge Tilley, in memory of Mr. and Mrs. L.A. Platt; Rebecca K. Yarbrough, in honor of Dr. Sidney H. Yarbrough III; special assistance from the Ella E. Kirven Charitable Lead Trust for Acquisitions; and a gift from the Dedalus Foundation 2000.13.5

    The large scale of Massive Image wraps around the peripheral vision and overwhelms the viewer.
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  • Air View of Spring Nursery
    acrylic on canvas
    Alma Thomas
    born Columbus, Ga. 1891
    died Washington, D.C. 1978
    Gift of the Columbus-Phenix City National Association of Negro Business Women and of the artist 79.53

    This abstract painting is Alma Thomas’ interpretation of what the colorful rows of plants in a nursery would look like from an airplane.
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