Clyfford Still Paper- Hsuan Wang

Hsuan Wang

ARTH 3539

Clyfford Still Essay


When I first hear about Abstract Expressionism, I thought we are going to study the artist such like Pablo Picasso, but now I know I am completely wrong about the meaning of abstract expressionism after the read the assignment and visited the museum. This is an explanation for the abstract expressionism “A post World War II movement in painting characterized by emphasis on the artist’s spontaneous and self-expressive application of paint in creating a nonrepresentational composition.” This movement is first American movement that achieves to influence the whole world and make New York City the center of the western art, so it is the most important movement in American art history.

Clyfford Still is one of the Abstract Expressionism artists. He born in North Dakota and he spent the first 35 years at Washington State and central Alberta, Canada. Still’s early work from 1925 to early 1930s were the image that describe people and place, the scenes of building and machine set in front of the environment; and most of the landscape was painted from Alberta, Canada.

In around 1933 to 1941, His artwork most are environment of farm and he studied art at Washington State college, after his degree, he began to teach art and art history at the school; it was to around 1936 to 1937, when Still begin to design his work similar to the abstraction. His style become more and more different during the year late 1930s to early 1940s, the human figure looks like there are totems, shape of segment, quasi-figures and other vertical lines and shape that set in front of the background. This non-human figure shape of painting gives the others this nightmare and dark feeling about his painting.

The artwork include many characteristics of Abstract Expressionism by 1942, beside Clyfford Still, there were many other abstract expressionism artist such like Jackson Pollock, Willem De Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Mark Rothko. Still move to New York City on 1945 then met those abstract expressionism artists and the art world. While Still was teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, he had reached a basic abstraction. His many ideas was developing, the landscape and the figure were free, should not be limited on the canvas.

After one year, 1946, Still went to San Francisco Bay, and the painting he made has new power form the edge forms, bright color, and heavily surfaces; “texture to kill a color, color to kill a space,” said by Still. Those painting made him become highly influential in Abstract Expressionism, and this movement helped the United States’ artwork stand out in front of the world after the World War II.

Still wanted his painting become viewer’s environment, he wanted his painting could make others feel some spirit not just an object in 1950 to 1961. The size of his artwork become bigger, the “lock-in” shapes created the form of bold color. The form sometimes had small dabs of color in the center of the form, and the canvas he was showing to the viewer also take important role. He believed that the place to show the painting and to show the canvas each has the own meaning. In 1961, Still stayed at Maryland until his death, in 1980.

PH-343, 1937

This painting was making by 1937, and this composition is dividing into two sides. Right side of this painting is a man look figure that has the warm earth tone color with shadows with red-brownish background, and the human shape that shows the viewer hands, legs and tripe. The left side of this painting is machine look figure that has only black color with white background and hard shape that does not look like human figure. This artwork is different style compare to the old work, this can show the own style and it is close to the abstract expressionism.

PH-235, 1944

This painting is one of the paintings that I like due to the color. I can feel dark in some of his painting, but this one is different. Although it also makes me feel dark, it would not make me feel heavy. The major color of this painting is gray, black and white, but Still has put the lighter colors on it, such like yellow, blue, and red. The composition of this painting is on the center of the canvas, and the shape of this painting is not a human figure painting, it is a weird shape figure. This painting is more close to the abstract expressionism than the “machine and human figure” painting.

PH-118, 1947

This is the latest artwork than other two I have been describes. This painting can be say as a abstract expressionism artwork. This painting has color black, white, yellow, and red with cream color on the background, or the viewer can see as cream color with the color black, white, yellow, and red on the background. The composition of this painting is a main line coming down from up left corner to the right down corner. The shape if this painting is many horn look that combined together. The painting is with many layers of paint, very thick and sturdy.

I am not really into abstract expressionism, but some of Clyfford Still’s artwork does surprise me. I like the period when he began to paint the dark and heavy feel of the human painting, I think it has its own style, and it show the viewer of life and struggle.

All the information about Clyfford Still’s life, the process of developed artwork and the images of the painting is coming from the Clyfford Still Museum.

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