Abstract Expressionism

Ab Ex Contents

Ab Ex Essays


From Abstract Expressionism to Pop

by Gary Comenas

Part I: Realism vs Abstraction (1800-1938)

1. Births

jackson pollock

Jackson Pollock 1928 (from high school yearbook)

Robert Henri

John Sloan

John Graham

Marcel Duchamp

Stuart Davis

André Breton

Sidney Janis

Adolph Gottlieb

Mark Rothko

Arshile Gorky

Willem de Kooning

Meyer Schapiro

Clyfford Still

Barnett Newman

Misha Reznikoff

John Ferren

Harold Rosenberg

Leo Castelli

Clement Greenberg

Franz Kline

Philip Pavia


Jackson Pollock

John Cage

Philip Guston

Robert Motherwell

2. Beginnings

armory show poster

The Art Students League opens

The Eight

First U.S. solo exhibition of Picasso

The Armory Show

Mark Rothko arrives in U.S.

Arshile Gorky survives the Armenian genocide

Duchamp's urinal at the Society of Independent Artists exhibition

Arshile Gorky arrives in the U.S.

Willem de Kooning arrives in the U.S.

First exhibition of the Société Anonyme

First solo exhibition by Kandinsky in U.S.

André Breton publishes his Manifesto of Surrealism

The term "Abstract Expressionism" is first used in the U.S.

The stock market crashes

Artists hang out at Romany Marie's and the Jumble Shop

Jackson Pollock studies under Thomas Hart Benton

Surrealism at the Julien Levy Gallery

The first concentration camp in Germany is announced

The Artists' Union is formed

The Section of Painting and Sculpture is launched

Art Front

"Abstract Painting in America" at the Whitney

The WPA is launched

The Federal Art Project is launched

The Ten

The first American Artists' Congress takes place

"Fantastic Art, Dada and Surrealism" at the Museum of Modern Art

Part II: Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism (1939-1945)

1. Surrealists flee Europe for the U.S. during World War II


Matta 1941

Wolfgang Paalen emigrates from France

Picasso's Guernica is shown at Valentine Dudensing

Matta, Breton and Tanguy stay at Gordon Onslow Ford's chateau in Chemilleu

Adolph Gottlieb paints Surrealist still-lifes

Matta arrives in New York

Marcus Rothkowitz becomes Mark Rothko

Arshile Gorky meets Matta

Stanley William Hayter arrives in the U.S. and uses a "drip can."

Gordon Onslow Ford arrives in the U.S. with "poured canvases."

Mark Rothko, Adolph Gottlieb, Meyer Schapiro and others start the Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors

Emergency Rescue Committee

Chateau Hoping for a Visa

2. Myths

view magazine

The April 1942 issue of View magazine featuring André Breton's article "The Legendary Life of Max Ernst: Preceeded by a Brief Discussion on the Need for a New Myth."

Jackson Pollock drips

Carl Jung's Essays on a Science of Mythology is published

Richard Pousette-Dart shows that size matters

Abstract Expressionists attend Gordon Onslow Ford's lectures on Surrealism

Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko paint myths

Jackson Pollock fails the draft

Robert Motherwell goes to Mexico with Matta and begins painting The Little Spanish Prison

André Breton arrives in the U.S. Adolph Gottlieb paints Pictographs

Peggy Guggenheim and Max Ernst arrive in the U.S. Arshile Gorky's solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art

Arshile Gorky marries Agnes Magruder

Lee Krasner meets Jackson Pollock

Pearl Harbor. Artists in Exile at the Pierre Matisse Gallery

André Breton discusses myths in April issue of View magazine

Harold Rosenberg and Breton discusses the need for a new myth in May issue of View

3. Art of This Century


Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery

VVV is published

Max Ernst drips

Arshile Gorky sketches a waterfall

Marcel Duchamp arrives in New York

Matta practices automatism with Abstract Expressionists

"The First Papers of Surrealism" exhibition

Art of This Century opens

Matta has twins

Jackson Pollock's first solo show at Art of This Century

Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rotho discuss myths on WNYC

Artists hang out at the Waldorf Cafeteria

Did Jackson Pollock piss in Peggy Guggenheim's fireplace?

Arshile Gorky works on The Liver is the Cock's Comb

Was Jackson Pollock gay?

Mark Rothko's first solo show at Art of This Century

Arshile Gorky's first show at Julien Levy

Little Boy is dropped

Jackson Pollock moves to the Springs

Part III: Abstract Expressionism: The Irascibles (1946-1959)

4. "Existentialism, honey, Existentialism"

no exit

Publicity still from the Broadway production of Jean Paul Sartre's play, No Exit, at the Biltmore Theatre with a cast featuring RUTH FORD (r) - the sister of View editor, CHARLES HENRI FORD - and a set designed by Frederick J. Kiesler who also designed Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century gallery.

Jean Paul Sartre lectures in the U.S.

Mark Rothko begins painting Multiforms

Arshile Gorky's paintings are destroyed in a fire

Franz Kline paints his first abstract painting

Arshile Gorky is diagnosed with cancer

Arshile Gorky has a colostomy

Existentialism in View magazine

Philip Guston is featured in Life magazine

Jackson Pollock begins the Accabonac Series and Sounds in the Grass Series, including Shimmering Substance

Betty Parsons Gallery opens with Indian exhibition

Willem de Kooning writes to his father

No Exit on Broadway

Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman and Adolph Gottlieb visit Philip Guston in Woodstock

Jean-Paul Sartre criticizes the Surrealists

5. Arshile Gorky, R.I.P.


Last photo of Arshile Gorky taken at the Glass House by Wilfredo Lam in July 1948, clearly showing the traction device he had to wear as the result of a crash in a car driven by his art dealer, Julien Levy.

Jackson Pollock drips

Exposition Internationale du Surréalisme in Paris fails to excite critics

Only issue of Possibilities is published

Cedar Street Tavern

First issue of Tiger's Eye

Franz Kline paints 'white' paintings

Willem de Kooning paints black and white abstractions

Philip Guston paints The Tormentors

Jackson Pollock in Time magazine

Arshile Gorky's father starves himself to death

Mark Rothko's "The Romantics were Prompted" appears in Possibilities

Barnett Newman begins his Zip paintings

Matta visits the Gorkys

Gorky's wife has a secret rendezvous with Matta

Gorky is injured in a car accident making him unable to paint

Willem de Kooning teaches at Black Mountain

Gorky's final days

Arshile Gorky commits suicide

6. The Irascibles


The "Irascibles" in the January 15, 1951 issue of Life magazine Front row: Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, Mark Rothko Middle row: Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, Bradley Walker Tomlin Back row: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, Hedda Sterne

The Subjects of the Artist School opens

The Club opens

Robert Motherwell paints Granada

Mark Rothko exhibits his Multiforms

Life magazine asks if Jackson Pollock is the greatest living artist in the U.S.

"Black or White" paintings at Kootz

Willem de Kooning's Woman I

Hans Namuth films Jackson Pollock

Franz Kline's first solo show in NY.

Jackson Pollock in Time magazine

The Irascibles

Philip Guston paints White Painting

The Museum of Modern Art acquires Rothko's 'classic' Number 10, 1950 exhibited in his final Parsons show

Rothko, Pollock, Still and Newman ask Betty Parsons to drop other artists

Ninth Street Show

Jackson Pollock paints it black

Jackson Pollock has a car accident

John Cage comments on Guston painting "nothing"

Clement Greenberg comments on Pollock's new figurative style in Harper's Bazaar

Fifteen Americans at MoMA

Franz Kline teaches at Black Mountain College

John Cage presents Theater Piece No. 1 at Black Mountain College

7. Jackson Pollock R.I.P.

jackson pollack

Photograph of Jackson Pollock and Ruth Kligman taken on the day of Pollock's death by Edith Metzger, the passenger in Jackson's car who was also killed in the same car accident that killed Pollock

Willem de Kooning begins affair with Joan Ward

Richard Stankiewicz

Robert Rauschenberg erases a de Kooning

Willem de Kooning drinks

De Kooning's first show at Janis features Woman paintings

Jackson Pollock drives on the wrong side of the road

Jackson Pollock in drunken stupor

The Red House

Yves Tanguy dies

Rothko's first show at Janis

Lee Krasner exhibition at the Stable Gallery

Joan Ward gives birth to de Kooning's daughter, Lisa

Time magazine refers to Jackson Pollock as "Jack the Dripper"

Jackson Pollock meets Ruth Kligman

Jackson Pollock rejects "Abstract Expressionism"

The death of Jackson Pollock

8. Seagram Murals

Mark Rothko painting

Mark Rothko

A drunken spree inspires Franz Kline's Chicago, Calumet City and Orleans

Leo Castelli Gallery opens

Adolph Gottlieb shows Burst paintings at the Martha Jackson Gallery

Barnett Newman shows Vir Heroicus Sublimis

Willem de Kooning begins an affair with Ruth Kligman

Elaine de Kooning's article on Rothko and Kline as "Americans in Action" is published in Art News annual

Robert Motherwell shows a Je t'aime painting at the Whitney Annual

Allan Kaprow challenges the Club

Jasper Johns

Allan Kaprow at the Hansa Gallery

"The New American Painting" travels through Europe prior to the Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art becomes the first U.S. museum to purchase a painting (Abraham) by Barnett Newman

Mark Rothko changes his name legally

Mark Rothko writes his will

Mark Rothko's Seagram Murals

Willem de Kooning stays with Ruth Kligman in Rome

Allan Kaprow's 18 Happenings in Six Parts at the Reuben Gallery

"Sixteen Americans" at the Museum of Modern Art

Mark Rothko backs out of Seagram deal

Part IV: Abstract Expressionism vs. Pop (1960-1969)

1. The Times, They Were a Changin'

ray gun exhibition poster

Poster for Claes Oldenburg's "The Store" (Although the poster gives the date of "The Store" as December 1 - 31, it was extended through January 1962)

Barnett Newman finishes 3rd & 4th paintings of Stations of the Cross

Ray Gun

The times, they were a-changin'

Franz Kline punches Jean Fautrier

First Situationist exhibition in the U.K.

Willem de Kooning punches an Air France engineer at the Cedar

John Graham dies in London

Mark Rothko at the Museum of Modern Art

Mark Rothko tells his doctor that 'he'd been living on alcohol for six weeks'

Abstract Expressionists denounce the New York Times art critic

Mark Rothko visits England

Barnett Newman's Onement VI shown at "American Abstract Expressionists and Imagists"

Willem de Kooning punches Clement Greenberg

Claes Oldenburg's Store

2. Pop Art and a New Abstraction

Campbell's Soup Can cartoon

Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1962

Mark Rothko agrees to do the Harvard Murals

Willem de Kooning has an affair with Mera McAlister

Franz Kline dies

Life magazine reports on Pop Art - "Something New is Cooking"

Andy Warhol's Soup Can

Sidney Janis goes Pop

Cedar Street Tavern closes

William Baziotes dies

Mark Rothko blanks Warhol and Kligman

Pop Art in Time magazine

"Toward a New Abstraction" concentrates on hard-edged second generation abstract artists

Mark Rothko signs with Marlborough

Milton Avery dies

Burgoyne Diller dies

De Kooning hires Michael Wright

Robert Motherwell retrospective at MoMA

Scull sells

Philip Guston paints commonplace objects

Andre Breton dies

Barnett Newman asks "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue?"

Frank O'Hara dies

3. Drinking Again

sad to glad cover

The book published by Mark Rothko's psychiatrist in 1974 extolling the virtues of pyschopharmacology (For Rothko he prescribed Sinequan and Valium despite Rothko's alcoholism and heart condition)

Willem de Kooning paints new women

Ad Reinhardt dies

Barnett Newman's Broken Obelisk is unveiled

Mark Rothko has an aneurysm

Mark Rothko "going completely to seed" in Provincetown

Michael Wright resigns from de Kooning's employ

Mark Rothko visits his doctors

Bernard Reis drafts new will for Rothko

Willem de Kooning goes to Holland for retrospective

Marcel Duchamp dies

Willem de Kooning survives a car crash

Barnett Newman and Robert Motherwell protest Mayor Daley

Mark Rothko sees a psychiatrist

Robert Motherwell does "Pop Art"

Mark and Mell Rothko separate

Mark Rothko signs second contract with Marlborough Gallery

Dore Ashton visits a "deeply disturbed" Rothko

Mark Rothko begins an affair with Ad Reinhardt's widow

Willem de Kooning retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art

A "soused" Rothko attends first meeting of the Rothko Foundation directors

New American Painting and Sculpture: The First Generation at The Museum of Modern Art

The Mark Rothko Foundation is incorporated

Willem de Kooning goes to Italy

Barnett Newman shows Zim Zum 1 in Tokyo

Willem de Kooning sculpts

Mark Rothko signs a letter of agreement with the Tate in London in regard to the Seagram murals

Mark Rothko has a party

Part V: Deaths (1970-end)

willem de kooning

Willem de Kooning at the age of 55 (Photo: Walt Silver)

Mark Rothko commits suicide

Barnett Newman dies of a heart attack

Mark Rothko's widow dies

Kate Rothko vs. Marlborough Galleries

Willem de Kooning meets Mimi

Philip Guston shows KKK paintings at the Marlborough Gallery

The Rothko Chapel is dedicated

Willem de Kooning goes to rehab.

Adolph Gottlieb dies

Kate Rothko wins

Willem de Kooning visits the Rothko Chapel

Harold Rosenberg dies of a stroke

Willem de Kooning goes on a binge

Philip Guston suffers a major heart attack

Frank Lloyd is sentenced in the Rothko case

Lee Krasner retrospective at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts

De Kooning's dealer Xavier Fourcade dies of AIDS

Elaine de Kooning dies

Robert Motherwell dies

Willem de Kooning's dementia and death

Matta dies

Milton Resnick commits suicide

Club organizer Philip Pavia dies at the age of 94

Part VI: Abstract Expressionism Essays and Notes

Notes on Marcel Duchamp

Notes on Stuart Davis

Andre Breton: Surrealism, Dada and the Abstract Expressionists

Notes on Bradley Walker Tomlin

Notes on Jack Tworkov

William de Kooning's Childhood

Willem de Kooning Leaves Holland

Notes on Meyer Schapiro

Arshile Gorky's Childhood

Mark Rothko, Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb and the Opportunity Gallery

The Origins of Expressionism (excerpt)

Art Front (excerpt)

The WPA (Works Progress Administration) and the Federal Art Project

The Ten: Nine Artists in Search of a Cause

Arshile Gorky's Newark Airport Murals

Elaine de Kooning

Excerpt from "Avant-garde and Kitsch" by Clement Greenberg

Robert Motherwell, Matta and Wolfgang Paalen in Mexico

Adolph Gottlieb's Pictographs

Agnes Magruder and Arshile Gorky

Edward Alden Jewell vs. The Federation of Modern Painters and Sculptors

The Portrait and the Modern Artist: Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko

Excerpt from "The Plasmic Image" by Barnett Newman

Alfred Jensen on Mark Rothko

Chasing Dash Snow (excerpt)

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