Clyfford Still is best known for forceful paintings composed of huge fields of color laid on with a bravura use of a palette knife. His more modest early canvases, made in the 1930s and 1940s, reveal his own evolution toward abstraction. He began by absorbing the lessons of European Modernism. In works such as Untitled [formerly Self-Portrait], of 1945, one can see him responding to German Expressionism and Surrealism but forging a unique style. Vigorous areas of color are contrasted with fine, twisting lines. Forms are rendered but hover in indeterminate spaces.
In such paintings one senses the emergence of a new American Modernism. Whereas the previous generation had represented the architecture and inhabitants of the modern city, Still embedded his modernist sensibility in the materials of painting, making the paint itself a vivid reflection of the artist's will.