Lyrical Abstraction

Lyrical Abstraction is either of two related but distinctly separate trends in Post-war Modernist painting, and a third definition is the usage as a descriptive term. It is a descriptive term characterizing a type of abstract painting related to Abstract Expressionism; in use since the 1940s. Many well known abstract expressionist painters like Arshile Gorky seen in context have been characterized as doing a type of painting described as lyrical abstraction.

The second common use refers to the tendency attributed to paintings in Europe during the post-1945 period and as a way of describing several artists (mostly in France) whose works related to characteristics of American abstract expressionism. At the time (late 1940s) Paul Jenkins, Norman Bluhm, Sam Francis, Jules Olitski, Joan Mitchell, Ellsworth Kelly and numerous other American artists were living and working in Paris and other European cities. With the exception of Kelly all of those artists developed their versions of painterly abstraction that has been characterized at times as lyrical abstraction, tachisme, color field, and abstract expressionism.

Finally in the late 1960s (partially as a response to minimal art, and the dogmatic interpretations by some to Greenbergian and Juddian formalism) many painters re-introduced painterly options into their works and the Whitney Museum and several other museums and institutions at the time formally named and identified the movement and uncompromising return to painterly abstraction as lyrical abstraction.

European Abstraction Lyrique (Tachisme) born in Paris in 1945, and the French critics Pierre Guéguen and Charles Estienne the author of L'Art à Paris 1945–1966 are credited with coining its name in 1946, and American Lyrical Abstraction a movement described by Larry Aldrich (the founder of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield Connecticut) in 1969

European Lyrical Abstraction is an art movement born in Paris after World War II. At that time, France was trying to reconstruct its identity devastated by the Occupation and Collaboration. Some art critics looked at the new abstraction as an attempt to try to restore the image of artistic Paris, which had held the rank of capital of the arts until the war. It is possible that lyrical abstraction also represented a competition between Paris and the new American school of painting, Abstract Expressionism, based in New York and represented by Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and many others. It could thus be seen as the School of Paris versus the New York School.

Lyrical abstraction was opposed not only to Cubist and Surrealist movements that preceded it, but also to geometric abstraction (or "cold abstraction"). Lyrical abstraction was in some ways the first to apply the lessons of Kandinsky, considered one of the fathers of abstraction. For the artists in France, lyrical abstraction represented an opening to personal expression.

Read more about Lyrical Abstraction:  European Abstraction Lyrique, America, Exhibition Participants, Relation To Other Tendencies, Painters in America

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