My last tutor report advised research as follows :  Look at the artists mentioned in the introduction to Part 3: Cy Twombly, Antoni Tàpies, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline.

6a  Cy Twombly

Art periods! : Abstract expressionism, Neo-expressionism, Minimalism

The Tate website describes Twombly works as ”.. paintings are predominantly large-scale, freely-scribbled, calligraphic and graffiti-like works on solid fields of mostly gray, tan, or off-white colours.  …….” Many of his later paintings and works on paper shifted toward “romantic symbolism”, and their titles can be interpreted visually through shapes and forms and words”. (Tate 2017)

Twombly himself is known to have remarked  “ ……  lines have a great effect on painting …..” (Tate 2017)

My line is childlike but not childish. It is very difficult to fake… to get that quality you need to project yourself into the child’s line. It has to be felt.” Cy Twombly (The Art Story 2017).

Some of Twombly’s key concepts for the foundations of his work were based on writing and language.  This may have been in the form of poetry, myths or history.  Much of his works were line based, he often sketched unidentifiable doodles and scribbles on the canvas as well as words.  He often had a narrative underpinning his works, though these were often subtle and difficult or obscure to grasp.

He had a fascination with the ancient histories of the Greco and Roman empires and histories plus their mythologies.  This yearning by the American artist for the Old World lead him to Europe where he settled and married.  His works were often his own reactions both sensual and emotional to their past histories.  Twombly did however sometimes provide a commentary on contemporary social and political events.

The images I have chosen below to represent works by Twombly are from his late period done in the 1990’s.  His Four-Seasons with their luxuriant colours and tones contrast with the simpler blood red Bacchus canvas painted at the time of the Iraq war.

Fig 1. Untitled (Bacchus) (2008)

This painting “Untitled” (but called Bacchus), was painted at the time of the Iraq War.  The stark blood red scribbles loop across the canvas, side to side and top to bottom.  The loops trail of the ground out of the frame in places.  At a size of over 12 square metres this is an imposing size and dominates any space it is put into.  Is his commentary on the war and lives being shattered and torn apart, the red of blood to signify this blood lust by governments to send others to fight for their principles!

I think it may in fact be a reaction to an older story than the Iraq war, to an ancient myth, the story of Bacchus.  Bacchus is the God of agriculture, fertility and wine.  Red as well as being the colour of blood is also the colour of passion, love, lust and wine.  The swirling reds looping denote the curves and shapes of human forms (female curves) as well as the oval shapes of grapes.

There is no start and no end to the red swirling loops.  Like love and wine – they go on forever!

Fig 2. Quattro Stagioni Autunno (1993)


Fig 3. Quattro Stagioni: Inverno, (1993–5).



6b   Antoni Tàpies

One of the most famous artists of his generation, Tàpies  was Spanish and worked as a painter, sculpture and art theorist.  Recognised for this contribution to art he was honoured with the heredity title 1st Marquess of Tapies by the King of Spain.

The Tate label for the work “Grey Ochre“ is reproduced below.  This neatly sums up the ideas and concepts of Tàpies.

Gallery label, July 2012

” Tàpies combined paint with dust, resin and other materials to create rough, densely worked surfaces, a technique that he called ‘matter’ painting. He compared his sombrely coloured paintings to the weather-worn, heavily marked walls of the streets in his native Catalonia, which seemed to bear witness to the sufferings of the Civil War and the repressions of life under General Franco. The critic John Russell described these works as ‘not so much painted as excavated from an idiosyncratic compound of mud, sand, earth, dried blood and powdered minerals.”       (Tate 2017).                           


Along with other artists of his generation around the world in the aftermath of the Second World War and the dropping of the atomic bomb he expressed a great interest in matter – the materials of the world.  These were then used in his works in a variety of expressions and techniques.  Much of Tapies work is made of these ‘Matter’ paintings.  He traced this notion of using materials and matter back to the medieval times where matter was much studied and misunderstood.  Mystics sought through magic and charlatanism to convert matter through alchemy, he wished we would see this works as a means to transform our inner selves!

For his work using materials he developed a style that involved covering his canvases in a highly textured base incorporating materials such as marble and clay.  Into this he inscribed and incised lines and marks.  These scribbled lines, cuts and graffiti became the ground for the paint he later applied.  He wrote ….. ‘My pictures became the truly experimental fields of battle… destruction led up to aesthetic tranquillity.’ …..

The work “ Grey Ochre “ Fig 4 [reproduced below] is such a work.  It incorporates oil paint, epoxy resin and marble dust on canvas.  These works we not so much as painted as chiselled from the ground or canvas.  He reinforces the use of the materials and matter by painting in shades of grey and ochre – earth colours, themselves manufactured from materials from the ground.  The work resembles a rock face with an overgrowth of mosses and lichen.

Also shown below is his work – “Grey and Green Painting, 1957”, Fig 5, in this he combines matter such clay and marble dust to his paint and used waste paper, string, and rags before adding paint to this material base.  Much of his work is obscure with a suggestion that even though made from the material world is not of this world, he is hinting and suggesting something that can only be sensed by its absence.

Informalism or Art Informel          is a pictorial movement that includes all the abstract and gestural tendencies that developed in France and the rest of Europe during the World War II parallel to American abstract expressionism. Several distinguishing trends are identified within the movement such as lyrical abstraction, matter painting, New Paris School, tachisme and art brut.  ( (2017)

Matter painting                               refers to the technique of using thick impasto paint into which other materials such as sand, mud, cement and shells have been added.   (Tate 2017).

Fig 4. Grey Ochre, (1958)
Fig 5. Grey and Green Painting, [aka : Peinture grise et verte] (1957)
Fig 6. Cartography, (1976)

6c   Willem de Kooning

In the post-World War II era, de Kooning painted in a style that came to be referred to as Abstract expressionism or “action painting”, and was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the New York School.

The most prominent of the Abstract Expressionists after Pollock, de Kooning’s paintings typify the vigorous and gestural style of the movement and was prominent in developing this radically abstract form of painting.  Despite much of his work being abstract he had still did much painting of traditional subjects such as women and landscape.

He had strong influences from Picasso and Cubism and though branded an Abstract Expressionist, [he did not like pigeonholing movements with labels] much of his work was a mastery of ambiguous figures which had been dismembered, reassembled and distorted.

His works are perfect examples of ‘action painting’ resembling violent encounters with a sense of dynamism and incompletion.  This sense of being incomplete he must also have felt as he often returned and reworked his canvases.

The concepts that de Kooning painted to such as disassembled and re-assembled figures of women painted in vigorous and dynamic strokes is encapsulated in his painting [below] Women Singing II.  This painting is inspired by pop singers de Kooning saw on TV.  He has recycled this imagery but the figures are a blurry representation lacking substance.  They merge and blend with the background at once disembodied and present!  This recycled imagery is a recurring theme of his as we as depicting pop references which he used continually through the ‘50’s and 60’s.

Painted in creamy pastel tones two female figures the figures seem to writhe sensuously across the painting.  The paint has been applied in long fluid strokes in sweeping gestures and the two figures full most of the canvas.  The two figures seem to nearly melt together forming one multi-limbed sensuous figure.

At the time this painting and some of his other similar works were heavily criticised; it was noted  .(Hellstein 2018)

..” ..the colour palette of pinks, peaches and creamy yellows slathered on the canvas seemed not only inappropriate for a man in his mid-60s but out of step with the art of the times.”  Critic Norbert Lynton, writing for the Guardian in 1968 noted  ..”   … oily pink girls, with genitals and buttocks now as well as breasts and man-eating faces, and the fury seems to have changed into decorative playfulness.”

These critics were viewing these works at the time comparing them to de Kooning’s earlier works which were seemingly more acceptable to the concept of Abstract Expressionism but in hindsight we can look at this and other such painting by de Kooning as some of the paintings in an ever evolving style manner for which de Kooning was painting.

He continuously reworked his paintings returning days and months or even years later to scrape back, redefine and work on again.  His studio assistant would photograph works in the morning and then later in the day there would be much scraping and over painting but the end result would often be very close to that which had been.  De Kooning seemed never to be satisfied with what he had and was constantly seeking to redefine his art and vision.

Willem de Kooning quotes –      “I don’t paint to live, I live to paint”   (The Art Story 2017)

“I’m not interested in ‘abstracting’ or taking things out or reducing painting to design, form, line, and colour. I paint this way because I can keep putting more things in it – drama, anger, pain, love, a figure, a horse, my ideas about space. Through your eyes it again becomes an emotion or idea.”  (The Art Story 2017)

action painting [noun]              The term action painters is applied to artists working from the 1940s until the early 1960s whose approach to painting emphasized the physical act of painting as an essential part of the finished work.  (Tate 2017).

Fig 7. Women Singing II, (1966)

Tate gallery                             Gallery label, September 2004

This is one of three paintings by De Kooning titled Women Singing. They were based on pop singers the artist saw on television.  The energetic style and vibrant colours are typical of De Kooning’s work of the 1960s. Interviewed by Sylvester a few years earlier, he spoke of the authority that he felt he had achieved in his painting.  ”I have all my forces … I have a bigger feeling now of freedom. I am more convinced … of picking up the paint and the brush and drumming it out.”  (Tate 2017)

Fig 8. The Visit, (1966–7)
Fig 9. Landscape at Stanton Street (1971)



6d   Franz Kline

Franz Kline a contemporary and friend to Pollock and de Kooning is also termed an Abstract Expressionism.  He is best known for large black and white paintings of abstract motifs.

His earlier paintings edged towards realism because of his academic training.  This also lead to an admiration for Old Masters like Rembrandt. This ll changed once he had settled in New York and met de Kooning who had a large influence on him.  His work started to evolve into the abstract monochromatic style for which he is best known.

Kline was friends with Pollock and de Kooning, however, he never experimented with figurative elements in his mature work which veered to black and white pictures of geometric shapes. Many of his latter paintings are black on a white ground.  Some also believed that the artist’s obsession with black was connected to his childhood spent in a coal-mining community dominated by heavy industry, others believe this choice of colour may have been influenced as he sketched his wife as her mental illness progressed.

By the time of his early death at the age of 51 he had widespread recognition for his unusual approach to painting and gestural abstraction which would later evolve to the Minimalist style.  However, this recognition has waned since his death as during his life he was very reluctant to talk about his art and others have struggled to analyse it since.

His contemporaries (de Kooning, Pollock) were quite vocal in their analysis of their art and have thus been more accessible to understand and interpret their art.  His works are included with the style known as “Action painting” as a result of his seemingly spontaneous and intense style.  But these brushstrokes are not instantaneous and rapid stokes on the spur of a moment.  They are the result of very careful analysis and research as well as a host of preliminary drawings.

These preliminary drawings were often done on discarded telephone books and then Kline would ‘zoom-in’ to extract passages from these drawings leaving his work with elements and hints of the text and symbols.  This effect was reinforced by the black paint on a near white ground, much like a page of printed text.

Fig 10. Four Square (1956)

Analysing his painting “Four Square” also gives us an insight into his other similar works.

Four Square – an example of Kline’s experimentation with angular compositions and of his gestural approach to painting.

We wonder at what we are looking a close-up of a linguistic symbol or text, though our mind tells us it resembles a set of open window frames.  Many of the Abstract Expressionists preferred the two- dimensional treatment of the picture plane, however, Kline uses the energetic juxtapositions of vertical and horizontal lines and their diagonal overlapping to achieve a visual effect of depth in the painting.

Quote   “The final test of a painting, theirs, mine, any other, is: does the painter’s emotion come across?”    (The Art Story 2017)

Fig 10. Four Square (1956)
Fig 11. Meryon, (1960–1)


Meryon – Gallery label, July 2008

“Kline began as a figurative painter, but by 1950 was making vigorous, large-scale abstract paintings in black and white. His sense of space and insistence on flatness were particularly influenced by Japanese art and many of his works have a calligraphic feel. The bold directional marks in this painting also have a strong architectural sense, and it has been suggested that the work relates to an engraving of a clock tower by the nineteenth-century French artist Charles Meryon. Despite the spontaneous feel of his work, Kline often made small preparatory sketches before executing the larger paintings.”  (Tate 2017)


List of Illustrations   

Fig 1.    Twombly, Cy . (2008). Untitled (Bacchus), [Acrylic paint on canvas], At:  (Accessed on 6 Nov17)

Fig 2. Twombly, Cy. (1993) Quattro Stagioni Autunno, [Acrylic paint on canvas], At:   (Accessed on 6 Nov17)

Fig 3. Twombly, Cy . (1993 -95)- Quattro Stagioni Inverno, [Acrylic paint on canvas], At:–inverno-t07890   (Accessed on 6 Nov17)

Fig 4. Tapies, Antoni (1958). Grey Ochre [Oil paint, epoxy resin and marble dust on canvas]. At:   (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Fig 5. Tapies, Antoni. (1957) Grey and Green Painting, [aka : Peinture grise et verte] [Oil paint, epoxy resin and marble dust on canvas]. At:  (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Fig 6. Tapies, Antoni (1976) Cartography, [Etching on paper]. At:  (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Fig 7. de Kooning, Willem (1966). Women Singing II,. [Oil paint on paper on canvas]. At: (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Fig 8. de Kooning, Willem. (1966-7) The Visit [Oil paint on canvas]. At:  (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Fig 9. de Kooning, Willem (1971). Landscape at Stanton Street [Lithograph on paper]. At: (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Fig 10. Kline, Franz (1956), Four Square [oil on canvas] At:  (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Fig 11. Kline, Franz (1960–1). Meryon. [oil on canvas] At: (Accessed on 8 Nov17)


Biography (2017). Willem de Kooning. [online]. At: on 8 Nov17) (2017). Antoni Tàpies. [online] At:  (Accessed on 7 Nov17) (2017) Informalism. [online] At:  (Accessed on 7 Nov17) (2017). Willem de Kooning. [online]. At: (Accessed on 8 Nov17) (2017). Franz Kline. [online] At: (Accessed on 9 Nov17) (2017). Antoni Tàpies. [online] At: (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Hellstein, V. (2018). Women Singing II 1966 by Willem de Kooning. [online] At: (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Masters, C. (2017). Antoni Tàpies obituary. [online] the Guardian. At: [Accessed on 7 Nov 2017].

Masters, C. (2017). Cy Twombly obituary. [online] the Guardian. Available at: (Accessed on 6 Nov17) (2017). Four Square. [online] At: (Accessed on 9 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Action painting – Art Term – Tate. [online] Available at: (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Antoni Tapies 1923-2012. Tate. [online] At:  (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Cy Twombly 1928-2011 | Tate. [online] Available at:  (Accessed on 6 Nov17)

Tate. (2017).  Franz Kline [online] At: (Accessed on 9 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). ‘Grey Ochre’, Antoni Tapies, 1958 Tate. [online] At: .  (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Kline – Meryon. [online] At (Accessed on 9 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Matter painting – Art Term – Tate. [online] Available at: (Accessed on 7 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Time-Lines: Rilke and Twombly on the Nile. [online] At: (Accessed on 6 Nov17)

Tate. (2017). Willem de Kooning. [online]. At:  (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

The Art Story. (2017). Cy Twombly Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works. [online] Available at: (Accessed on 6 Nov17)

The Art Story. (2017). Franz Kline Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works [online]. At (Accessed on 9 Nov17)

The Art Story. (2017). Willem de Kooning Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works. [online]. At:  (Accessed on 8 Nov17) (2017). Four Square, 1956 – Franz Kline. [online] At:  (Accessed on 9 Nov17)

Williamson, M. (2017). Antoni Tapies: Catalan artist celebrated for his use of found. [online] The Independent. At:  (Accessed on 7 Nov17) (2017). Willem de Kooning Painting, Biography and Quotes. [online] At: (Accessed on 8 Nov17)

Youtube (2017. Franz Kline – In Action [online]. At: (Accessed on 9 Nov17)