During World War II, the ideas of abstract art that had begun in Europe came to the United States. Surrealist and Impressionist paintings made their way to New York museums and European artists came to America to escape the war. A group of young artists saw this work as a way of portraying the pain they were experiencing in seeing this war.
There were two main versions of abstract expressionist art that emerged. One focused on physicality and movement. Jackson Pollock was a well-known artist who used this style. Instead of using the traditional painting technique, he splattered paint on the canvas. Lee Krasner, his wife, was less well-known but many see her as a pioneer in the art world. She explored several methods, but she is most famous for her swirls of paint that seem to grid together.
The other style of painting focused on color. They made use of something called color fields which were big expanses of one color. Mark Rothko is one of the most famous artists who used this style. His goal was to encourage the viewer to reflect inward while looking at the painting. Frank Bowling also used this technique in his paintings that were meant to be a kind of activism that supported the civil rights movement.
These artists and styles are thought of as classical abstract art, but it grew and changed into different versions that many artists use today. My next article will explore how abstract art transformed in the US as well as in other countries.