Action Painting

Alexander McQueen SS99

After World War II many artists were frustrated by the restrictions of the war and wanted to paint freely and expressively. Many art movements came after the war for this reason, however one of the most physically expressive movements is Action Painting also known as Gestural Abstraction. Action Painting is focused on changing the perspective of art and focusing on the process of making artwork rather than the finished piece and is a direct and dynamic style where spontaneous actions are the key to success. Therefore actions such as smearing, splashing or dribbling the paint were all key styles in the artwork creating dramatic effects on the canvas emphasising the act of art rather than a subject.


Missoni SS12

Many artists were attracted to this expressive style of painting including Jackson Pollock, James Brooks and Franz Kline because of its focus on the process of making art. It also inspired the start of other dramatic art movements which all emphasised performance over the object, including Fluxus, Happenings, Performance Art and Earth Art. The period became popular because the artists emphasised on seeing the process instead of the product and the importance of the act rather than the object dramatically changed people’s viewpoints on art.

The freedom and individuality which Action Painting brings to art has inspired other art movements as well as fashion. Designers have always been inspired by the great art of history; however with Action Painting they have mirrored some of the techniques as well, including Versace in Spring 1999 and Missoni in Spring 2012 with expressive paint effects on the clothing.



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Written by Felicity Jones

Felicity Jones, studying Literature at Portsmouth University, with a passion for all things art and fashion, writer/reader/ editor/ artist/ dedicated shopper. Felicity looks after the Catwalk Yourself Art Dictionary.

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