Color as Field – American Painting from 1950 to 1975

Color as Field – American Painting from 1950 to 1975



A decision to escape the activity of a community for a more solitary pursuit paid great dividends today in the shape of the discovery of Color Field painting. I travelled into he city to enjoy the National Portrait Gallery and its majestic space and exhibitions. Wandering is a good time to think and I often talk to myself – which helps me – but not the passer by!  Who cares if I get strange looks – no one knows me! Pictures help reflection and have the power to take you into different places and parts of life – sometimes quite by surprise!



On the third floor of the gallery was a selection of paintings on a large scale – the most familair being probably Mark Rothko. These pieces are abstract expressionism characterised by huge areas of colour. There is little recognisable imagery and above you’ll see a picture by Helen Frankenthaler (above) that absorbed this viewer into its shapes and textures. Other key artists are Morris Louis and Kenneth Noland. Some of the work echoed the paintings of Terry Frost and Victor Passmore.

You may have seen this image represented in various ways:

There is such a primacy of colour that many of these images must have had as their inspiration a very close attention and pondering of the natural world. I love the amiguity in the space and the mystery that these canvasses express about our attempts to connect and relate. I think that it is fascinating how we wrest meaning in life but especially from the inspired placement of colour in such quantity over so big a canvas. You can feel the power and symmetry of the artist and her engagement with the created order and the choas of our experience. In this form of art there is both a commanding authority and presence but also a paradoxical and uncanny sense of disembodiment. It is that ability to  hold these paradoxes and contradictions together that make art so powerful a force. In the colour and movement there is such mysterious meaning.  Another piece of colour for you:






One thought on “Color as Field – American Painting from 1950 to 1975

  1. Morris Louis has always been one of my favorite painters. To me, his work bridges the perceptual gap between painting and sculpture,and process and perception, in a way that no other artist ever has, or probably ever will again.

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