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The captivating era of Abstract Expressionism

4th October 2016

We were fortunate enough to be invited to the preview of Abstract Expressionism at the Royal Academy last week. The exhibition was truly awe inspiring; with over 150 paintings, sculptures and photographs from public and private collections across the world, this ambitious exhibition encompasses masterpieces by the most acclaimed American artists associated with the Abstract movement.

Left: Banners decorating the outside of Burlington House, advertising the exhibition. Right: Two stunning paintings by Mark Rothko.Left: Banners decorating the outside of Burlington House, advertising the exhibition. Right: Two stunning paintings by Mark Rothko.

Idolatress I by Hans Hoffman featured in the exhibition.

Inspiration comes from many places for us at EJS, and this exhibition is no exception. The striking use of colour, bold brush strokes and strikingly unique perception of reality are all aspects which wowed us. Similarly, when Abstract Expressionism exploded out of New York and the West Coast in the aftermath of the Second World War, it changed the art world forever. Initially engendering shock and outrage, the intensity and mesmerising beauty of canvases by Jason Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and others soon ensured their acceptance as icons of twentieth-century art - and immensely influential ones. 

Left and right: Emma admiring paintings by artist Jackson Pollock (Left - Male and Female, 1942-43. Right - Blue Poles, 1952)

A visitor taking in the surrounding works of Arshile Gorky.

"What these artists did have in common is that they were inspired by the epic tragedy and barbarism of the aftermath of WWII, represented through sombre, memorial-like paintings"

After attending this fantastic exhibition, the term 'Abstract Expressionism' has proven to be difficult for us to define. It is generally used to describe a group of artists who lived and worked in the US during the years following WWII (1939-1945). The writer Robert Coates coined the term in 1946, identifying a new American art that placed equal emphasis on abstract forms and expressive mark-making.

Left: A bold colour palette used by Sam Francis in his painting Untitled, 1956. Right: Willem de Kooning's infamous oil painting Woman, from 1949-50.

Jackson Pollock's world-renowned painting Blue Poles from 1952.

Left: Sculptures by David Smith displayed in front of Lee Krasner's The Eye is the First Circle, 1960. Right: A detailed shot of David Smith's steel sculpture Volton XVII, 1963.

However, it's clear from the exhibition that Abstract Expressionism is not a style, in fact it is far from it! The artists featured in this exhibition are fiercely independent, and their works were so unique and personal to each of them that there is not a single term that can be used to generalise them. Although, what these artists did have in common is that they were inspired by the epic tragedy and barbarism of the aftermath of WWII, represented through sombre, memorial-like paintings

Left: Jackson Pollock's oil and casein painting Mural, 1943. Right: Willem de Kooning's Untitled V, 1976.

Artist Arshile Gorky's Still-life on Table from 1936-37 reflects his unique perception of reality.

The Abstract Expressionist artists created a new artistic language which reflected its place in history and was uniquely American. We urge you all to visit this wide-ranging and profound exhibition, the first of its kind in the United Kingdom since 1959.

Abstract Expressionism

The Royal Academy of Arts

Main Galleries, Burlington House, London

24th September 2016 - 2nd January 2017

Tickets £17

Book here

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