After Modernism Lesson 1

In my first lesson we were asked to read Clement Greenberg-Modernist Painting (1960)

In the first lesson we will be discussing:

  • The roots of abstract expression
  • 5 Features of abstract expressionism
  • Clement Greenberg and formalism

Contributary causes to the 1940’s rise of abstract expressionism. Desire to claim cultural leadership of abstract art. American vs European art. Abstract expressionism is the image of American Freedom. In Vladimir Petrov’s Painting entitled ‘Tursunoi Akhunove’ Petrov shows the ‘idealistic’ life in Russia. This painting is a form of propaganda, it shows Russia in such a bright light, show’s the perfect life, the strong women and the happiness of the women in the painting. In jackson Pollocks painting ‘Autumn rhythm’ which reflects the freedom of America and the independence of the unique painting.


Desire to synthesise the main trends of European art> Cubism, Surrealism and Emigres.


Cubism started in the 1940’s (breaking things up into plains). Fragment form/Politics. Line and Plain. (Guernica, Pablo Picasso-1937 (Two seated women, Pablo Picasso-1946), (La Femme Fleur, Pablo Picasso-1946).

Surrealism started in the 1940’2


1) Automatism- releasing the unconscious (Automatic Drawing, Andre Masson-1924)

2)Hidden imagery (The kill, Andre Masson-1944)

3)Desire (engament with the international world)(Andre Masson, Pasiphae) vs Jackson Pollock Pasiphae 1943



Roberto Matta, Chamboles les amouresse 1943, Hans hoffman, afterglow 1938, Hans Hoffman The wind, 1942 Hans hoffman was questionable the first person to do a drip painting.

The 5 features of abstract expressionism

  1. The gesture
  2. The ideogram-Pictograph-between language and image (Bradley Walker Tomlin Number 20, 1949) urban enviroment reminded me of a randsome note. (Pierre Alechinsky, Les Hautes Herbes, 1951) (Herri Michaux, Emerging figures-1950 Picture5
  3. Size and scale (Rothko, Newman and Pollock) American bigger paintings vs European.
  4. Submerged figuration
  5. The ‘All over effect’ (jackson Pollock full fathom five, 1947) (Herbert Ploberger, Debris and detail, right- 1945-6)

We went on to discuss when a painting because so minimalist that can it be actually called a painting. It was interesting to see to abstract expressionism developed.

Clement Greenberg doesn’t speak of the artist Marcel Duchamp, Marcel Duchamp paints humor and Greenberg is more on the professional side.


We then discussed the Clement Greenberg’s theory on Modernist art. He claims that Modern art is self critical. Kant- philosphical reasons turned us back on to ourselves- not into the universe. Greenberg’s formalist definition of painting:

-Two dimensionally

– The rectangular shape of the support

-The Properties of the pigment

This lesson I felt was a good introduction to the term selection of after modernism, I enjoy taking notes and find Jon to be a good tutor as he shows enthusiasm for his subject which makes the subject more appealing, and also he speaks loud and clear and doesn’t use too many long words, which I find more user friendly. I found the reading before the lesson very hard to understand as the writing was very technical for me as I struggle with reading. I lose distraction at the best of times. I felt better about it when I skimmed through the reading and spoke more about it in the lesson. The skills acquired is note taking which is helpful in any lecture/lesson. Overall a good first introduction to after modernism.


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