Painting, November 20 | Pierre Soulage | Guggenheim Bilbao Museoa
Past exhibition

Art Informel and Abstract Expressionism in the Guggenheim Collections

03.08.2005 - 11.06.2005

Around 1945 a number of European and American painters established a crucial phase in modern art known broadly as Art Informel. This term encompasses a wide array of abstract practices and diverse painterly methods. In Europe, in the devastating aftermath of World War II and under the wing of Existentialist philosophy, artists turned to a painting marked by expressive hybridization and synthesis unlike the utopian and experimental values that had marked the previous generations. Informel painting rejected the last strongholds of classical humanism and its most significant artistic principles, such as form, tonal harmony, balance, proportion, unitary composition, and centralized structure.

Meanwhile, painting in the United States was developing toward a gesture-based, highly expressive style, which became known as Abstract Expressionism. Action Painting—so called because it borrows both the affective qualities inherited from the Expressionists' subjective heroism as well as the Surrealist technique of automatic writing—falls within the Abstract Expressionist movement with Willem de Kooning as one of its leading figures.

Other Abstract Expressionists employed large planes of color to evoke spiritual states. For Color-field painters, or "painters of silence" such as Mark Rothko, the canvas was a consequence of meditation, intense lyricism, and spirituality.

A special component of this presentation studies and explores the drawings, sketches, and graphic work executed by artists connected to these movements, analyzing their work on paper as an essential factor of the transformation of traditional figurative line into graphic abstract expression.


Pierre Soulages
Painting, November 20 (Peinture, 20 novembre), 1956
Oil on canvas
195 x 130.2 cm