Sarah Tye Clyfford Still


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Nelson Clyfford Still Paper

Heather Nelson

Prof. Kira van Lil

Contemporary Art

31 January 2012

A New Experience of Art

            Clyfford Still often said, “If you look my paintings with unfettered eyes you may find forces within yourself that you didn’t know existed” (Still, 2011). Still is one of the most influential painters who not only transformed American art into Abstract Expressionist but also is an important figure in the history of all modern art. After experiencing the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, I understood the transitions of his art. Throughout his career, the major transitions that occurred through Still’s work included a transition from realistic American paintings, to slightly distorted realistic images, to extremely distorted with no ground or focal point, and finally to pure abstract expressionism. Regardless of what he was painting, his work was extremely influential and a privilege to be able to see in person. Continue reading

Clyfford Still Essay

Lindsey  Cannon

ARTH  3539

Clyfford  Still  Essay

January  30th,  2012

Abstract  expressionism  has  renovated  the  social  understanding  of  “acceptable”  art  in  the  twentieth  century.  It  was  an  act   of  urgency  from  the  horrific  results  of  the  postwar  of  World  War  II.  This  technical  style  embodied  surrealism  and  gave  birth  to  the  process  of  gesture  and  the  production  of  a  responsive  product  of  art.  One  iconic  figure  and  artist  known  during  this  time  was  Clyfford  Still. He  amplified  and  recreated  the  productinon of  canvas  and  figurative  ground  within his  workings  of  an  oil  medium.

Heroism  is  a  primitive  example  of  his  work  as  a  desecrate  individual  expressing  realization  of  western  culture  and  redefining  abstract  composition.  Placed  within  the  realm  of  Jackson  Pollock,  Mark  Rothko  and  Barnett  Newman  they  created  a  rebellious  unit  which  altered  the  definition  of  art,  enlightening  society  with  prominent  issues.   This  was  a  definitive  basis   for  our  society  to  reconnect  and  understand  one  another.  Born  within  seclusion  of  a  agricultural  upbringing  in  Grandin,  North  Dakota,  Still’s  ambition  was  to  evoke  a  grotesque  image  of  life.  This  process  was  expressed  through a  layered  timeline  of  agricultural  and  human  form.  The  city  of  Denver  was  fortunate  to  inherit  825  paintings  and  1575  works  on  paper  which  enabled  society  to  visually  acknowledge  his  work  as  a  form  altering  the  persona  of  “respectable”  art.  Still  wasn’t  recognized  for  his  talented  work  until  1947  when  he  began  presenting  his  view  toward  the  human  body  and  our  environment.

The  can  only  be  understood  when  you’re  able  to  actually  soak  within  his  workings,  visually  engaging  between  the  haggard  layers  of  paint  distributed  to  the  canvas  which  provides  a  sublime  acceptance  toward  the  non  objective.  This  museum  features  a  timeline  elaborating  toward  his  progression  as  an  artist.  Each  piece  distributes  a  cultural  understanding  of  a  social  disturbance.  His  central  emphasis  of  the  timeline  is   placed  within  each  one  of  his  paintings  through  compassionate  act  to  express  gestural  technique,  neglecting  a  visual  centerfold  of  background  and  foreground.  This  contingent  moment  revolved  around  his  sporadic  placement  of  oil  paints.  His  1957-D  No.  1  is  a  great  example  of  this  timeline,  through  the  embellishment  of  heavy  blacks,  yellows  and  whites  controlling  the  scenery,  through  a  layered  expanse  which  creates  a  linear  schedule  of  life.  This  traditional  method  is  recurrent  throughout  his  work,  conveying  an  individual  life  process  through  a  vibrant  color  pallet.

There  was  also  an  obsession  with  the  process of  expressing  the  horizontal  and  vertical  form.  This  is  continuously  repeated  with  Still’s  expansive  group  of  paintings,  which  defines  a  non – objective  idea  that  ultimately  cultivated  our  perception  of  the  simplistic  and  the  relative.  Another  example  of  Still’s  works  is  the PH – 929  black  and  white  image  that  was  made  in   1974.  This  painting  is  a  primitive  example  of  the  last  decade  which  this  artist  was  able  to   express  his  medium  as  an  abstract  expressionist.  This  painting recreates  a life  of  it’s  own  having  a  chaotic  environment  of  color  placement.  When  the  viewer  engages  with  each  piece  it  is  an  overwhelming  sense  of  empowerment  through  the  large  scale,  placing  the  figure  into  an  installation  of  havoc.  Still  is  understood  for  his  ability  to  apply  a  color  field  through  non – objective  form.

Still  was  praised  with  his  1979  exhibition  which  showed  a  collection  of  his  works  at  New  York’s  Metropolitan  Museum  of  Art.  This  large  exhibition  displayed  Still’s  best  works  throughout  his  entire  carrier. Known  to  be  negligent  towards  the  world  of  distributing  his  art,  he  was  blessed  with  the  recognition  to  house  his  works  in  the  setting  of  this  competitive  realm  of  abstraction.  The  only  relative  figure  Still  paints  is  is  Self  Portrait  (PH 382)  in  1940.  This  young  composition  is  the  only  representative  image  of  the  artist  that  separates  from  his  other  works.   It  is  a  painting  that  provides  an  relative  environment  to  the  artist  with  the  background  of  a  blank  canvas.  Still’s  intense  expression  and  body  positioning  draws  the  view  into  the  painting  wanting  to  understand  his  motive  of  self  expression  within  this  piece.  This  is  probably  one  of  his  only  paintings  that  doesn’t  produce  an  over  exaggerated  form  of  the  body.  This  realistic  representation  defines  the  artist  and  his  own  expanse  of  canvas  and  medium.

This  artist  helped  contribute  and  reform  the  understanding  of  art  in  America.  He  distributed  his  talent  through  color  placement  and  truthful  recognition  of  prominent  issues  within  that  time  period.  His  painting  are  a  crucial  basis  for  contemporary  works,  defining  the  meaning  of  abstract  expressionism.  This  respected  artist  has  provided  a  line  placement  that  has  interacted  with  society,  providing  a  theme  of  landscape  and  gestural  position.  He  is  a  crucial  figure  that  has  recreated  the  process  of  application  through  source  of  media  and  the  external  appreciation  of  the  paintings  he  has  provided  to  society.

Clyfford Still -Paige Lowe

Paige Lowe

ARTH 3539

31 January 2012

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Danielle Tomasetti


Clyfford Still: Life on Canvas – Anna Cook

The artistic career of Clyfford Still was exceptionally evolutionary. Like many artists from the post World War II era, Still’s work underwent a series of developmental and tactical changes, which we can see as his art progresses. We see Still’s style change from primarily realistic to surrealist to abstract expressionist, and in each of those changes we also see elements from macabre to lighthearted elegance. His work is as versatile and capable to change as his life, and while all of his pieces are unique, each one is common in the most basic sense. The evolution of Still’s work transcends the emotional boundaries of art, while also still being attached to the human essence. Like many of his contemporaries, Still used color, shape, form and space; however he especially used movement, verticality, and expression to indicate the complexity of human expression and form. Continue reading

Georgescu-Clyfford Still

Dora Georgescu


Clyfford Still Essay

Clyfford Still: From Representation to Liberation


Described as the most anti-traditional of the Abstract Expressionists, Clyfford Still is credited with laying the groundwork for this art movement that emerged in the years following World War II (Sandler).  His work is characterized by a shift from representational art to abstraction and ultimately strives for the expression of freedom and the liberation of the viewer. Continue reading

Clyfford Still- Kathryn Anderson

Kathryn Anderson

January 30, 2012

Art History 3539-001

Kira van Lil 

Giving Painting’s a Living Spirit

            I invited my roommate to come with me to the Clyfford Still museum.  I thought it would be interesting to ask others what they thought of the work and just compare notes.  As we were looking at 1951 B, great blue one, she asked me, “What does this mean to you?  What was Still trying to say?”  To me, Still’s art isn’t so much about what the pieces are trying to say, but how they make me feel.  This concept started to make more sense to her after reading a quote from Still, “I never wanted color to be color, I never wanted texture to be texture, images to become shapes.  I wanted them all to fuse into a living spirit.” Continue reading

Clyfford Still Paper – Kristie Lopez

Kristie Lopez

January 28, 2012

ARTH 3539

Clyfford Still

After his fifty year career Clyfford Still’s paintings were hidden away for thirty years after his death in 1980. It was not until Clifford’s wife Patricia struck up a deal with Hickenlooper that a museum would be made here in Denver to showcase his 2,000+ pieces of artwork. Clyfford Still lived all over the United States and started at a very young age and through all of the changes that the art world has endured Still worked has also changed over that course. Over this time he did other things then just paint, he also taught for a large period of time. His first paintings were specific and detailed, they had objects that were centered and were the focal point of the piece. His earlier pieces had landscapes and people in them and what seemed to be a story behind them. The people that are in the painting are mildly distorted but still humanistic none the less. About ten years later his works changed and the objects and people that were the focal points of the piece started to be more obscure, fine lines and elongated features. The later works of his and arguably my favorites are known as Abstract Expressionism. They are indeed abstract, very different from his earlier works. He seems to be a very well rounded artist with a large range of works. They no longer had objects and made more use of the canvas and different techniques. There was areas that had a blank canvas which allowed for a different kind of focal point. There was some Abstract Expressionism that was for lack of a better term simple and some that was more complex. He used vertical canvases, dark tones, and chunky paint lines making the piece very thick and full of texture. If I see one piece of art that is his I can see a distinction and know what kind of artwork is his. Then I see a very different piece of his that looks nothing like some of his others that I have seen. He seems to have a grasp of many different styles of art that he picks up on. He also seems to change and evolve over time with the changed of not only the art world but the general world as well. His art is also very expressive of himself as well. At times in his careers he used a lot of dark colors and at other times he used a lot of vibrant colors. He used different strokes and canvases with a lot of blank spot and some where the whole canvas is covered. A lot of the darker pieces have a distinct almost unnoticeable spot of color. You learn more about the painting the longer that you stare at it. Over time you find new color and you find new patterns and create a different overall idea of what the painting is about.  Continue reading

Paper 1: Clyfford Still – Aly Nack

Aly Nack

Clyfford Still Paper

January 31th, 2012

Clyfford Still, although not as well know as some of his colleagues, –including Jackson Pollack , Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, etc.– was the first to develop this new, radical approach to painting that is now known as Abstract Expressionism. Continue reading

Still Yet Moving

Clyfford Still has come to be known as one of the titans of the art world. His work spans near the entirety of the 20th century. Just like America, Still’s work changed drastically throughout the century. Still’s personal challenges and struggles can be observed in his overall body of work. In addition the political and emotional strife of the American people during this century resonates strongly in his work. Still’s personal metamorphosis during this time not only mirrors that of the United States but also foils it in a sense. Highlighting the rejection of European ideals and the manifestation of the United States as a super power; as the nation militarily and artistically replaced Europe as the center of the world. Continue reading

Clyfford Still (Lauren Anderson)

“I never wanted color to be color, texture to be texture, images to become shapes.  I wanted them to all fuse into a living spirit.” -Clyfford Still

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Painting’s Soul – a paper on Clyfford Still by Alysia Davis

Nude, a beautiful woman without a face confronts voyeurs. Her facial expression can be inferred by her body language – delicate, decisive, and confidant she is anything. Directly addressing the audience with vacant nothingness, she transforms with the emotions of one viewing her visage. Rendered as a sketch, she is timeless; a glimpse into the dynamic soul of the artist. By leaving her face in the imagination of the viewer, Clyfford Still inserts his personality as artist and author. He knows the viewer will in turn insert their own idea of her emotional state based on their personal experiences.

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Clyfford Still

Mary Robbins

Clyfford Still Paper

Contemporary Art

January 30, 2012


Clyfford Still: Color Dramas

Clyfford Still is considered to be one of the leaders of the Abstract Expressionist art movement.  Among his AbEx contemporaries, which include the likes of Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko,  Still’s work remains distinct.  While other artists experimented with many different styles and techniques, Clyfford Still remained true to his jagged aesthetic throughout his career.  Still’s early representational paintings can be found to have the same types of form, Continue reading

Stills Paper Lubbers

Clyfford Stills Paper

Clyfford Still Paper- Alexandra Engelhardt

clyfford still-alexandra engelhardt = word document

The Style Progression of the Great Clyfford Still

If you haven’t heard of Clyfford Still before going to the Clyfford Still Museum, the experience is one to amaze you as you view the progression of his work. The journey of his life took him and his art off the farm and into fascinating directions, making a slow shift into awe-inspiring Abstract Expressionist art. The design of the museum suits the display of his artwork perfectly. As one ascends the stairs to the second floor gallery, a large, exquisitely realistic, self-portrait of Still makes its way into your view as if he is personally greeting each guest. A museum truly devoted to the great artist; not only does it show his artwork, but its existence honors the dying wishes of the late Still. He specified in his will that his large estate must be wholly donated to an American city that will create an everlasting museum devoted only to him. The museum holds around 2400 pieces that take the visitor on a 60 year journey from 1920 to 1980 (the year of his death). In his time, he changed Modern Art as a whole.

Clyfford Still’s artistic journey began as a small child on a wheat farm in Spokane, Washington. This was an extremely difficult environment to grow up in and at an early age he was introduced to the pain of a hardworking life. In order to escape the stresses of his life, he would teach himself philosophy, classical music and most importantly, how to paint. Still said that he felt like he had travelled the world already, just from reading about European artists in magazines and journals in his barn. He was inspired by the readings and the famous paintings he saw, and practiced sketching and drawing scenes of rural life and the people he knew. From this, an amazing talent developed with representational painting. His ability to paint people with such realism is remarkable as a self-taught artist.

Clyfford Still developed his own recognizable style of painting of farm-life scenes in the 1930s. These regionalist paintings had men and women, often in the nude, with long, tired faces in scenes around the farm. We see that he was greatly influenced by surrealist art. The characters have sunken eyes, sunken cheeks, and a face that looks like it hasn’t rested in months. The bodies are often emaciated looking, with sagging breasts, exposed bones, and long skinny limbs. This painting, for example, shows the strain on the body from working in the farm.

The long arms are extended, looking like they are stretching to the point of breaking and the backs look permanently hunched. The enlarged hands draw attention to their importance in the fields. The viewer can feel the pain just by viewing the artwork. Another remarkable feature is the sense of motion that he is able to capture. The viewer is able to see the people if they are alive and moving, because he paints them in such a dynamic way. The characters are almost painful to look at, because we see their sad emotions in the beautifully expressed tired, warped faces. Most of the characters look like they are cerebral, contemplating figures, because they are almost never engaging in conversation. This could be the influence of his father, whom sometimes would not speak for weeks-probably due to the stresses he faced. His early paintings make a deep impact on the viewer, and this is just the beginning.

We see the next step towards his abstract expressionist work, when the human figure turns into more of a design than a body. The physical shape is still recognizable, but it is less representative of true anatomy.  This semi-abstract painting, below, is a key piece during the transition between his figuration paintings and his mature style.

We still are able to see his recognizable long limbed, tired body, but it is juxtaposed next to an abstract black and white field. With color and shape, he both contrasts the left to the right field, while painting the bodylines in a way that compliments the black and white geometry. On other works in the same time, we see the human figure that has been broken down to its counterparts. We see bones, fleshy spots, and umbilical-cord wiggly shapes vertically twisting through the canvas. The ominous, depressing farm emotions are still apparent through dark colored background; lots of dark earth tones with small spots of bright color. We can also see shapes that look reminiscent of grasses and vegetation.

In the late 1940s, his paintings turn towards radical abstraction, devoid of the figure and farm. This painting, below, is my favorite. A famous quote by Clyfford Still helps the viewer understand what they are seeing: “These are not paintings in the usual sense. They are life and death merging in a fearful union…they kindle a fire; through them I breathe again, hold a golden cord, find my own revelation.” I did not fully understand what this meant until I read and listened to the information at the Clyfford Still Museum. “Verticality expresses a life force” in the same way a plant grows upward, and “when we die, we are horizontal.” With this piece I have inserted as an example, we see many vertical lines and one instance of a horizontal one. These lines are called lifelines. We see the balance, or conflict/battle of the lifelines. This painting is truly representative of “life and death merging.”

Also in this painting we have characteristics that are representative of his abstract expressionist work. We have an overwhelming sense of scale, with the large mural sized canvases influenced by Mexican Murals (true to many of the major artists of this same style i.e. Pollock). We also can see the amazing texture of the paint on the canvas, which he has applied in his own way. On an informational video at the museum I learned about his Tools, Technique, and Process. Still paints with “spontaneity, with an intense touch, and gesture,” using a palette knife. There is an evident “barbaric, scaly texture.”

The experience of looking at the large scale is overwhelming, as it is intended. Still said once, “If you look at my paintings with unfettered yes, you may find forces inside that you didn’t know you had.” He has been related to a shaman by many who understand his skills, for his ability to connect with and paint energies. Still once said, “I never wanted color to be color. I never wanted texture to be texture, or images to become shapes. I wanted them all to fuse together into a living spirit.” This is an expression of the subconscious. The large scale is supposed to suck you in to become an environment in which you can reside in temporarily. The composition is not limited to the frame of the canvas, and Still once said, “It’s intolerable to be stopped by a frame’s edge.” I found that if I viewed the art from my emotions, versus my mind, I was able to feel them versus analyze them. This allowed a better connection to the meaning of the work. I let the colors, shapes and movement of the line give me feeling and I did not over analyze it or I would lose the connection. This art is able to take you to another place than transcends the mental, physical dimension. The art breathes life, energy, and emotion in his famous patches of unpainted canvas, dynamic, flittering lifelines, powerful colors, and scaly texture.

This isn’t art that has been made for fame, this art belongs to the spiritual connection it brings Still alone. Still was a believer in art for pure art sake, and said, “The one thing that matters to the artist is art itself.” Still supported these words with a major move from Art-Mecca New York City to Westminster, Maryland in 1961. Where he turned an old barn into his large studio. From this point on he made nearly two decades of work, most of which has not been seen until the opening of the Museum in Denver. Clyfford Still continued to master his abstract expressionist work until his death in 1980.

Most noticeable in Clyfford Still is his wide range of skill. I spoke with a group of elderly women at the Museum and explained my knowledge of him so that they could experience the art as I did. The first thing that the women said was, “I do not get this.” After I explained the information written above, they had a whole new respect for the meaning behind the work. It is through understanding the artists point of view that allows the viewer to make the same connection. One thing that we all came to an agreement on is best seen in this quote of one of the ladies: “If I had seen his abstract work alone, I would have though that he painted in this way because he did not have the skill to paint the human figure or anything realistic. It is when I see the progression, and see that he evolved from such representational ability to this, that I understand that there must be more to it than I originally see.” I believe that this is true, because this art is not about just seeing the paint, but truly feeling the paint, which makes Clyfford Still one of the greatest American Painters of the century.




Clyfford Still Paper; Rachel Olguin

Clyfford Still: A Life Expressed

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Clyfford Still paper by Bryce Johnson

Bryce Johnson

Clyfford Still Paper

After walking walk out of the Clyfford Still Museum, you realize that what you have experienced is like nothing you have seen or felt before. A museum that is dedicated to the work of one artist, allows the opportunity to create a space that has no distractions, no works are competing against each other for the viewers’ attention. This is how the Still Museum is set up. The opportunity to have my first exposure to Clyfford Still’s work in the manner that I did, allowed me to experience the work as he and other abstract expressionist wanted the work to be felt.

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Clyfford Still Paper- Danielle Austin

Danielle Austin

Clyfford Still Paper

Clyfford Still is considered by many to be one of the most significant and influential painters of the 21st century.  Continue reading

Clyfford Still

Abstract Expressionism is said to b Continue reading

Clyfford Still paper by Ryan Baker

Clyfford Still paper by ryan baker

Ryan Baker

ARTH 3539

Clyfford Still

“My painting is a life statement, not an autobiography.”  This passage resonated within me as I sat in the museum reading these profound quotes by Clyfford Still.  I have spent a lot of my life traveling to many different countries and cities where art has been greatly influenced.  Through these travels I have visited many different museums and witnessed works from some of the greatest artist in the world.  Never have I been impacted so much from looking at a painting than from the works of Clyfford Still. Continue reading

Clyfford Stills and Abstract Expressionism: A.W. Burns

Document is attached: Clyfford Still Paper

Clyfford Still Paper by Jordan David Dawson

I observed a great deal of conflict in Clyfford Still’s later paintings. Jagged, sprawling spears of bright yellows and oranges piercing straight through desolate, black and blue landscapes, like bolts of lightning penetrating a cold and deathly void. Continue reading

Clyfford Still Paper (Nicole Avant)

Nicole Avant

ARTH 3539

Clyfford Still Paper

Clyfford Still was born on November 30, 1904. Over the course of his 76-year life his painting style changed drastically. As the roaring 1920’s turned into the Great Depression and then into World War II Still’s paintings changed. Like many painters of his time he turned to the traditions of Abstract Expressionism, which included large scale painting and all over composition. In reality, Still and the others were simply reacting to the volatile and catastrophic landscape that they were living in.
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Clyfford Still Essay

Shelby Simpson

ARTH 3539

Clyfford Still Paper

Due January 31, 2012


Clyfford Still: The Rediscovered Artist of Abstract Expressionism


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Clyfford Still Paper – Speare

Clyfford Still’s journey through art and painting is one that is characterized by the actual or the narrative transforming into the abstract. At the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, CO, you are able to follow Still’s work through each of theses stages. Still’s earliest works had a more somber, literal approach to human beings or figures in general. This approach was prevalent in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. His human figures, while it is obvious they are human beings, have actually been replaced by ominous, almost nightmarish figures.

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Clyfford Still Paper–Paige Hirschey

Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still Paper (Jillian Fox)

Clyfford Still Paper (Final draft)

Clyfford Still Paper – Elizabeth David

Clyfford Still Paper

Clyfford Still Paper, Madison Rupp

The Showcased Brilliance of Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still has always been a mysterious figure in the art world.  With humble beginnings in rural North Dakota and Washington, Still’s talent and style brought him to the ranks of famous mid-century painters.  Yet he still remained an enigma.  As the art world has come to resemble Hollywood, Clyfford Still has denied himself the celebrity status of his peers and denied the public of most of his work.  Until now.  With the opening of the Clyfford Still museum in November, the world has come to recognize this man as a talent that changed the course of modern art and a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism.  The Clyfford Still museum highlights the artist’s vision by exclusively displaying Still’s works and by organizing them into discrete groups based on geography, which gives a rough chronology.  In seeing Still’s work as a cohesive whole, the viewer gains a better understanding not only of the artist’s process, but of the man’s genius.

Clyfford Still Paper by Molly Plummer

Abstract expressionism’s aesthetic history is rooted in progression.  Artists sought an innovate form of expression to fit the new cultural landscape after World War II.  These artists lived through and experienced the America’s transition through the Great Depression and World War II and were left with a new cultural landscape.  These artists felt that this new landscape also needed a new form of expression, a new aesthetic to fit this environment and abstract expressionism was born. Clyfford Still’s paintings showcase this transition proficiently.  At the Clyfford Still museum Still’s works paint a picture of his journey beginning from images of the Great Depression and progress in terms of abstraction until the viewer is left gazing into his definitive, infamous transcendental paintings that define abstract expressionism.

Clyfford Still was an American painter who pushed the bounds of normalcy in art after World War II.  He is part of a group of influential and prestigious artists who developed this new form of painting, abstract expressionism.  Joined by Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko, Still developed a style of painting that was highly expressive, abstract and sought transcendence.  Monumental in scale these works leave the viewer in awe although there is no discernable imagery.  These paintings instead work through abstraction, scale, and expressive strokes and composition to evoke the sublime.

Born in 1904 in Grandin, North Dakota Still emerged into a life centered on the farm and vast desolate landscapes.  Although his later work is a study in abstraction, these images play an important role in shaping his work.  Still spent his childhood in rural Spokane, Washington and Alberta Canada.  It is in these places where Still became infatuated with the concept of the man and the machine.  Still was trained in San Francisco and moved to New York for the majority of the 1950’s.  After becoming frustrated with the art world in New York, he moved to Maryland where he spent the rest of his life with his wife and his artwork.

Clyfford Still once claimed that the image stood behind all his images.  Walking through the first room of the Clyfford Still exhibit, Still’s words ring true.  The first room is littered with images that depict realistic scenes of the Great Depression, centered on his early life in Alberta Canada.  These images focus on buildings and people in rural landscapes.  Still begins to incorporate the machines used on farms in these pieces.  While these pieces seem far differ from Still’s later famous style, they have show an important relation.  This is apparent “particularly his early use of chiseled planes of intense color and desire for monumental grandeur” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).

In the next set of paintings, Still uses images of his life during the 1930s in Pullman, Washington.  Although during this time Still was in pursuit of his education, he was still surrounded by rural, Great Depression era desolation.  Still finished his masters degree in 1935 and began to teach art.  Most of these images are farm scenes and even as they show a degree of realism, they are “increasingly expressionistic” and opposed the propaganda of the time (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  He instead used this expressionism to show the unattractive side effects of hard work.  His worked moved away from realism during this period and is especially apparent in the image of two men sucking wheat.  Still discussed the memories of Pullman that influenced this painting referencing “arms bloodied to the elbows from shucking wheat” and “men and machines ripping a meager living from the thin top soil” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  Still’s quotes exemplify the tone of the piece, ominous and desolate.  This piece begins to show Still’s move towards abstraction in the exaggerated arms of the men and their dark faces.  The image stops looking as realistic and becomes “carefully executed arrangements of line, color, and interlocking shapes” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  This change is echoed in his later works.

The exhibit then shows the viewer Still’s beginning of true abstraction.  This set of paintings, created in Pullman, Washington and Oakland, California in the late 1930s, show seeming nightmares of the Great Depression.  The images include dark collections of images including  “creature-like protagonists… totems, bone fragments, quasi-figures, and other vertical elements are set against nocturnal backgrounds” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  While the images are still present, they are much less discernable and definitely more abstract.  On first glance the viewer might not even notice the connection between the man and the machine, but instead see a dark nightmare.

PH 313 particularly shows Still’s mood in this series while also showcasing the abstraction and bright colors of his later pieces.  The painting shows human figures huddled around an object, thought to be a totem or staff.  The figures are interpretive and barely discernable and the objects suggested.  Still includes red and black lines at the top as parts of machine handles, continuing his theme of the man and the machine he experienced first hand during the great depression.  This image, along with the rest of this series, is highly original and illustrate Still’s move towards abstraction.  The painting on first glance seems completely abstract and showcases Still’s power with colors.  Splashes of bright colors jump out at the viewer, but the painting still seems menacing and gloomy.  This begins to make the viewer feel something emotionally that is very different than his realistic pieces do.  There is a sense of awe and that the emotion the piece elicits is an intention of Still’s.  Although this piece thematically fits Great Depression era art, it importantly showcases parts of Still’s infamous style while concretely solidifies Still’s move towards abstraction.

What follows is inevitable: a series of paintings that are true abstractions.  These paintings were created during Still’s tenure at “Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he synthesized many of the ideas he had been developing over the previous ten years” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  While there is a combination of Still’s previous themes and ideas, he finally liberated the lines, figures, and landscape showing works that were radically different.

Several paintings in this collection even show a progression of to a greater degree of abstraction and expressionism and showcase the birth of Still’s radical style.  The series opens with a rust colored piece that is monumental compared to his previous works.  It is a piece that showcases Still’s dramatic expressionism.  He still uses the colors used from the previous works, but they seem brighter.  Two overlapping, contrasting shapes outlined in bright rust intrude the background.  Although this is abstract in nature, the figures are gestural and seem inspired and thematic.  The piece is also monumental in scale, a defining quality of abstract expressionism.

1944 – N – No. 1 was created at the close of World War II and showcases even further the colors and lines Still would become famous for.  This piece exemplifies his use of flattened space intruded with what Still referred to as “lifelines”.  “My paintings have the rising forms of the vertical necessity of life dominating the horizon.  For in such a land a man must stand upright, if he would live.  And so born and became intrinsic this elemental characteristic of my life and work” (Clyfford Still).  These lines ascend upward from the edge of the canvas and create movement by intruding the flat color.  These “lifelines” continue and actually enhance the abstraction, as they look less like figures and more like naturally moving wisps.

While Still discovered the beginnings of his defining style in Virginia, he solidified and enhanced this style in San Francisco in the late 1940s.  His works became even more gestural and even the abstractions from the Virginia series seem liberated marking a “tremendously fertile period in which his paintings gained new power through vibrant colors, jagged forms, and heavily encrusted surfaces” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  Still also mastered the art of the bare canvas during this period.  As seen in PH-118 Still began to aggressively use areas of bare canvass expressively in which these unpainted areas appear gestural.  In this piece most of the area is unpainted, but the painting is still gestural and has movement.  The painted areas in this piece are structural, moving, and completely abstract.  Their placement in the blank canvass combined with the monumental scale impacts the viewer intensely.  This piece is the birth of transcendence in Still’s works.  While he has hinted at the feeling before the combination of paint, bare canvas, large scale, and color illustrate the sublime.

The exhibition continues and ends with Still’s paintings created in New York in the 1950s.  These pieces showcase Still’s definitive style and solidify his place in the Abstract Expressionist movement.  Paintings of monumental scale with huge fields of color, areas of blank canvas, and gestural abstraction show Still’s desire “to engulf the viewer’s field of vision and to be experienced as environments” (“Inaugural Exhibit”).  The pieces take up entire walls and the fields of color range from the size of a person to the size of a garage door.  Littered with blank canvas, these gestural abstractions define transcendence.  The viewer experiences the sublimity in the work while nothing is recognizable.  These works are so expressive in nature that they seem to speak of topics greater than everyday life but of which the viewer does not know.  Still mastered the dramatic conceptual nature that defines abstract expressionism.

The exhibition showcased Still’s works in a natural progression that left the viewer with a greater understanding of Still and the Abstract Expressionist Movement.  The works reveal so many contexts that are so important to Still’s works and make his signature style seem inevitable.

Works Cited

Inaugural Exhibition.  Clyfford Still Museum, Denver, Colorado.

Clyfford Still – Janeesa Jeffery


Clyfford Still -Kevin O’Hara

The Clyfford Still Museum offers a unique chance to for viewers to experience the life of one of the foremost abstract expressionist painters.  At Still’s own behest his large volume of artwork is allowed to unfold chronologically without the distraction of other artist’s works.  The audience follows Still from his humble upbringing on farms in the Northwest to Academia in California then to the height of the New York art scene in the 50s and finally returning to a quiet farm.  Throughout his life Still’s style evolves from realism and figurative work to one of the foremost abstract expressionists in history.  Still’s greatest works stand the test of time as colossal representations of the sublime. Continue reading

Clyfford Still Paper (Jasmine Lewis)

Clyfford Still paper


The Abstract Expressionist scene of the mid 20th century spawned a new movement in the art world and impacted generations of art makers. Continue reading

Laura Marshall – The Clyfford Still Experience

While not in the limelight when it comes to an everyday knowledge of Abstract Expressionism, Clyfford Still remains one of the most influential artists in the movement. His unique early life and experiences with art make him the perfect example of the progression from representation to abstraction in American art of the 1950’s.

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Clyfford Still’s effects on my psyche

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Clyfford Still Paper, Suki Nesvig



Clyfford Still Paper


Clyfford Still by Sonya Rivera

Clyfford Still is generally regarded as a master of his time, specifically a leader and founder of the Abstract Expressionist movement in the United States. Continue reading

Clyfford Still Paper

Clyfford Still Paper

Katie Hitch’s Clyfford Still essay

Katie Hitch

Contemporary Art 3539

Clyfford Still Museum

            Clyfford Still was the first out of his New York colleagues to break through to a new radical style of painting devoid of obvious subject matter. This movement that he spearheaded became known as abstract expressionism, and it developed after the Second World War.  Still diverged from representational painting during 1938 and 1942, while Pollock, Rothko, and Motherwell still painted “figurative-surrealist styles” into the late 40’s.  This style of painting can also be called Colorfield painting, and it emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. These artists created abstract colorful paintings that were meant to absorb the viewers into a field of breathing color, lines, and shapes. Action painting, another term used to describe the art blossoming during this movement, consisted of dripping lines, rhythmic brush strokes, and painting as part of a performance. Artists like Still, tried to separate their art from the European artists by creating a movement that was their very own, abstract expressionism.

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Nell Pollak Clyfford Still Paper

The art world transformed tremendously post World War II. A new style of painting developed called abstract expressionism. The group of artists that followed this new style crafted non-objective, abstract pieces. Among one of the most renowned abstract expressionist artists of the time was Clyfford Still. Continue reading

Clyfford Still Paper- Elleree Fletcher

Clyfford Still – Elleree Fletcher

Clyfford Still was an artist before his time, even he was aware of it. He exclaimed, “I’m not interested in illustrating my time. A man’s ‘time’ limits him, it does not truly liberate him.” Due to Still’s lack of what he thought as appreciation, he locked all his work away, waiting for the time when all his paintings could be shown at the same time and place. He felt that his art had to stand on its own, and he did not want his work to be distracted by other artist’s pieces. Therefore, Still gave his paintings to a city, not an institution. Luckily for me, I was able to experience all of Still’s work in his new museum in Denver. It truly made a difference to exclusively enjoy Still’s work; I was able to understand his development, but was also captivated by his abstract expressionist paintings. Continue reading

Clyfford Still

After visiting the Clyfford Still Museum, one can understand a bit more about abstraction and expressionism. I am often reminded of my earlier art classes where the teacher or professor would focus more on realism and if anything was abstract in any way, it would result in a poor grade. So, when I began to research about Clyfford Still for this class, I soon became determined to learn more about abstract expressionism perhaps to be rebellious of these previous professors. Continue reading

Clyfford Still – Chris Rybarczyk

Clyfford Still crybarczyk paper.

Clyfford Still Paper (Alysa Sharp)

Clyfford Still Museum:

“Hip galleries, world-class museums and fun First Friday festivals – Denver’s art districts are the pulse of the Mile High City’s creative community” ( Among these museums is the Clyfford Still Museum where over two-thousand works painted by none other than the artist Clyfford Still. According to Still’s will his works would be given in its entirety to one American city who would make a permanent museum so that others may observe and study his works. The main mission of the museum is “to advance the understanding and appreciation of Clyfford Still’s art and legacy through the presentation, research, interpretation, preservation, and stewardship of  its unique collections” ( Continue reading

Clyfford Still // Taryn Strong

Clyfford Still //Taryn Strong

Clyfford Still Museum: Justin Neely

Clyfford Still was a very prominent figure in the progression of art in the 1900’s, whose artistic effect still stands tall amongst art and art scholars of the present day. Throughout his years of stretching and pulling the boundaries of art, he went through several phases of painting. Continue reading

Clyfford Still Paper-Kara Gordon

Clyfford Still Paper-Kara Gordon