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Styles & Periods
Color-Field Painting

Color Field painting emerged as part of a new direction in art, Post-Painterly Abstraction, that arose in the 1950s as a reaction to Abstract Expressionism. Instead of the dense, painterly brushstrokes favored by the Abstract Expressionists, Color Field painters developed open, abstract compositions. Broad expanses of color were used to give extreme clarity to paintings, and the texture of the paint was undermined to emphasize hues and shapes. The range of artists working in this manner is broad, and includes Sam Francis, Helen Frankenthaler, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Rothko’s work centers on the impact of broad shapes and expressive colors. While these paintings are formally simple, their expression is emotionally and psychologically complex. Color-Field painting’s ties to Abstract Expressionism and its influence on Minimalism make it an important bridge between the two styles.


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