Color Field

1948 - 1968

Term referring to the work of such Abstract Expressionists as Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still and to various subsequent American painters, including Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Frank Stella, Jules Olitski, and Helen Frankenthaler. The popularity of the concept stemmed largely from Clement Greenberg’s formalist art criticism, especially his essay ‘American-type Painting’, written in 1955 for Partisan Review, which implied that Still, Newman, and Rothko had consummated a tendency in modernist painting to apply colour in large areas or ‘fields’. This notion became increasingly widespread and doctrinaire in later interpretations of abstract impressionism, until the movement was effectively divided into ‘gesturalist’ and ‘colour field’ styles despite the narrow and somewhat misleading overtones of each category.
Among the main characteristics of Abstract Expressionist colour field painting are its use of hues close in tonal value and intensity, its radically simplified compositions, and the choice of very large formats.
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© Grove Art / OUP

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