Home / Art9 Abstract Artists Who Changed the Way We Look at Painting

9 Abstract Artists Who Changed the Way We Look at Painting

Willem de Kooning

Though many of Dutch-American artist Willem do Kooning’s works retain aspects of figurative painting, most of his pieces showcase his exploration of complete abstraction. Featuring fractured forms, distorted geometric shapes, and busy brushstrokes, his colorful canvases convey a hectic and heavy application of paint.

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Excavation (1950)
Photo: Willem-De-Kooning.org

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Interchange (1955)
Photo: Art Market Monitor

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Untitled (1989)
Photo: Artsy

Helen Frankenthaler

Helen Frankenthaler, a New York-born artist, also worked in the Abstract Expressionist style. Specifically, she used a soak stain technique to create her collection of Color Field paintings. To create these watercolor-like works of art, Frankenthaler employed paint diluted with turpentine, which resulted in translucent washes of color. To Frankenthaler, the unpredictable nature of the process is just as important as the completed canvas. “You have to know how to use the accident, how to recognise it, how to control it, and ways to eliminate it so that the whole surface looks felt and born all at once.”

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Canyon (1965)
Photo: The Phillips Collection

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

The Bay (1963)
Photo: Khan Academy

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Interior Landscape (1964)
Photo: SFMOMA

Mark Rothko

Like Frankenthaler, Rothko also created glowing Color Field paintings. His pieces, however, feature more formally-composed blocks of color.  Though, today, Rothko is renowned as a major abstract artist, he did not seem himself in that light. “I’m not an abstractionist,” he noted. “I’m not interested in the relationship of color or form or anything else. I’m interested only in expressing basic human emotions: tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Orange and Yellow (1956)
Photo: MarkRothko.org

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

No. 61 (Rust and Blue), (1953)
Photo: LACMA

Agnes Martin

Agnes Martin is recognized for her minimalist approach to abstraction. Unlike the chaotic canvases of her peers, her pieces employ muted colors and simple compositions to convey quiet contemplation. Given this tranquil aesthetic, it is not surprising that many of her paintings—which she describes as “grids”— are rooted in her love of nature. “When I first made a grid, I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees, and then a grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it and then I was satisfied. I thought, ‘This is my vision.'”

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Gratitude (2001)
Photo: Artsy

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

Friendship (1963)
Photo: Art News

Abstract Painting Abstract Art Paintings Abstract Artists

This Rain (1958)
Photo: Whitney

Related Articles:

Art History: What is Contemporary Art?

Artist Creates Larger-Than-Life Abstract Floral Paintings Bursting with Color

Arnold Newman’s Incredible Artist Portraits (25 photos)

2/2

Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is an art historian living in Paris. Born and raised in San Francisco, Kelly holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.

Want to become a My Modern Met Member?

Find out how by becoming a Patron. Check out the exclusive rewards, here.

Sponsored Content