Action painting

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Action painting

Action painting (also action painting "action painting") describes an art movement of modern painting within abstract expressionism . She performed in the USA from 1950 and became internationally known through Jackson Pollock . Comparable is the European Tachism or Informel .



The term goes back to the American art critic Harold Rosenberg , who in the 1950s referred to the painting of the American Abstract Expressionists as action painting . Recent research suggests that the exile surrealist Wolfgang Paalen was the first to introduce the term. In his theory of the observer-dependent space of possibility, which conveyed new momentum and a unified, new worldview through his publications on abstract painting in New York in the 1940s, Paalen processed knowledge of quantum physics as well as idiosyncratic interpretations of the totemistic worldview and the spatial structures of Native Americans Painting of the north west coast. His long essay Totem Art influenced artists like Martha Graham , Isamu Noguchi , Jackson Pollock , Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman ; In it, Paalen develops a highly artistic vision of totemic art as part of an ecstatic "action" capable of establishing a psychological connection to the generic memory.

Problem of demarcation

Action painting is a sub-category of abstract painting or abstract expressionism. Jackson Pollock's main work is assigned to action painting, but his paintings are also defined as drip painting works. The technique of the poured painting, made famous by Hermann Nitsch , falls under the term action painting. These examples show the difficulty in clearly delineating the term.


Action painting - splashed on the left, trickled on the right
Josef Trattner , abstract expressionist wine picture, 2010

Action painting describes a direct and dynamic painting technique that gets its power beyond conscious influence by the artist. Therefore there is no composition in the sense of a planned image construction. There is no complex technique with regard to color mixing or elaboration. The materials are simple and are reduced to the process of applying paint to the painting surface. The paint is roughly painted, poured, dripped or sprayed onto the canvas with a brush or directly from paint pots and containers. Some artists completely dispensed with a direct method of processing and left the composition of the image to chance. Both surrealism ( automatism ) and the Dada movement can be named as predecessors .

Main representative

See also


Web links

Commons : Action Painting  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files


  1. Action painting | art. Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed May 7, 2016 .
  2. ^ Andreas Neufert, Auf Liebe und Tod, Das Leben des Surrealisten Wolfgang Paalen , Berlin (Parthas) 2015, p. 494ff.
  3. Schüttbild - The large art dictionary by PW Hartmann
  4. Action-Painting - The large art dictionary by PW Hartmann