Action painting, sometimes called "gestural abstraction", is a style of painting in which paint is spontaneously dribbled, splashed or smeared onto the canvas, rather than being carefully applied. The resulting work often emphasizes the physical act of painting itself as an essential aspect of the finished work or concern of its artist.
The style was widespread from the 1940s until the early 1960s, and is closely associated with abstract expressionism (some critics have used the terms "action painting" and "abstract expressionism" interchangeably).   A comparison is often drawn between the American action painting and the French tachisme.  The New York School of American Abstract Expressionism (1940s-50s) is also seen as closely linked to the movement. 
The term was coined by the American critic Harold Rosenberg in 1952,  in his essay "The American Action Painters",  and signaled a major shift in the aesthetic perspective of New York School painters and critics. According to Rosenberg the canvas was "an arena in which to act".  The actions and means for creating the painting were seen, in action painting, of a higher importance than the end result.  While Rosenberg created the term "action painting" in 1952, he began creating his action theory in the 1930s as a critic.  While abstract expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning had long been outspoken in their view of a painting as an arena within which to come to terms with the act of creation, earlier critics sympathetic to their cause, like Clement Greenberg, focused on their works' "objectness." Clement Greenberg was also an influential critic in action painting, intrigued by the creative struggle, which he claimed was evidenced by the surface of the painting.  To Greenberg, it was the physicality of the paintings' clotted and oil-caked surfaces that was the key to understanding them. "Some of the labels that became attached to Abstract Expressionism, like "informel" and "Action Painting," definitely implied this; one was given to understand that what was involved was an utterly new kind of art that was no longer art in any accepted sense. This was, of course, absurd." – Clement Greenberg, "Post Painterly Abstraction".
Rosenberg's critique shifted the emphasis from the object to the struggle itself, with the finished painting being only the physical manifestation, a kind of residue, of the actual work of art, which was in the act or process of the painting's creation. The newer research tends to put the exile-surrealist Wolfgang Paalen in the position of the artist and theoretician who used the term "action" at first in this sense and fostered the theory of the subjective struggle with it. In his theory of the viewer-dependent possibility space, in which the artist "acts" like in an ecstatic ritual, Paalen considers ideas of quantum mechanics, as well as idiosyncratic interpretations of the totemic vision and the spatial structure of native-Indian painting from British Columbia. His long essay Totem Art (1943) had considerable influence on such artists as Martha Graham, Barnett Newman, Isamu Noguchi, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko; Paalen describes a highly artistic vision of totemic art as part of a ritual "action" with psychic links to genetic memory and matrilinear ancestor-worship. 
Over the next two decades, Rosenberg's redefinition of art as an act rather than an object, as a process rather than a product, was influential, and laid the foundation for a number of major art movements, from Happenings and Fluxus to Conceptual, Performance art, Installation art and Earth Art.
It is essential for the understanding of action painting to place it in historical context. The action painting movement took place in the time after World War II ended. With this came a disordered economy and culture in Europe, and in America the government took advantage of their new state of importance.  A product of the post-World War II artistic resurgence of expressionism in America and more specifically New York City, action painting developed in an era where quantum mechanics and psychoanalysis were beginning to flourish and were changing people's perception of the physical and psychological world; and civilization's understanding of the world through heightened self-consciousness and awareness. 
American action painters pondered the nature of art as well as the reasons for the existence of art often when questioning what the value of action painting is.  The preceding art of Kandinsky and Mondrian had freed itself from the portrayal of objects and instead tried to evoke, address and delineate, through the aesthetic sense, emotions and feelings within the viewer. Action painting took this a step further, using both Jung and Freud’s ideas of the subconscious as its underlying foundations. Many of the painters were interested in Carl Jung's studies of archetypal images and types, and used their own internal visions to create their paintings.  Along with Jung, Sigmund Freud and Surrealism were also influential to the beginning of action painting.  The paintings of the Action painters were not meant to portray objects per se or even specific emotions. Instead they were meant to touch the observer deep in the subconscious mind, evoking a sense of the primeval and tapping the collective sense of an archetypal visual language.  This was done by the artist painting "unconsciously," and spontaneously, creating a powerful arena of raw emotion and action, in the moment. Action painting was clearly influenced by the surrealist emphasis on automatism which (also) influenced by psychoanalysis claimed a more direct access to the subconscious mind. Important exponents of this concept of art making were the painters Joan Miró and André Masson. [ citation needed ]
Abstract expressionism is a post–World War II art movement in American painting, developed in New York City in the 1940s. It was the first specifically American movement to achieve international influence and put New York at the center of the Western art world, a role formerly filled by Paris.
Abstract Impressionism is an art movement that originated in New York City, in the 1940s. It involves the painting of a subject such as real-life scenes, objects, or people (portraits) in an Impressionist-style, but with an emphasis on varying measures of abstraction. The paintings are often painted en plein air, an artistic style involving painting outside with the landscape directly in front of the artist. The movement works delicately between the lines of pure abstraction and the allowance of an impression of reality in the painting.
Clement Greenberg, occasionally writing under the pseudonym K. Hardesh, was an American essayist known mainly as an art critic closely associated with American modern art of the mid-20th century and a formalist aesthetician. He is best remembered for his association with the art movement abstract expressionism and the painter Jackson Pollock.
Jack Tworkov was an American abstract expressionist painter.
Elaine Marie Catherine de Kooning was an Abstract Expressionist and Figurative Expressionist painter in the post-World War II era. She wrote extensively on the art of the period and was an editorial associate for Art News magazine.
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Color field painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s. It was inspired by European modernism and closely related to abstract expressionism, while many of its notable early proponents were among the pioneering abstract expressionists. Color field is characterized primarily by large fields of flat, solid color spread across or stained into the canvas creating areas of unbroken surface and a flat picture plane. The movement places less emphasis on gesture, brushstrokes and action in favor of an overall consistency of form and process. In color field painting "color is freed from objective context and becomes the subject in itself."
The 9th Street Art Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture is the official title artist Franz Kline hand-lettered onto the poster he designed for the Ninth Street Show. Now considered historic, the artist-led exhibition marked the formal debut of Abstract Expressionism, and the first American art movement with international influence. The School of Paris, long the headquarters of the global art market, typically launched new movements, so there was both financial and cultural fall-out when all the excitement was suddenly emanating from New York. The post-war New York avant-garde, artists like Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, would soon become "art stars," commanding large sums and international attention. The Ninth Street Show marked their "stepping-out," and that of nearly 75 other artists, including Harry Jackson, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Robert De Niro Sr., Philip Guston, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt, David Smith, Milton Resnick, Joop Sanders, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman and many others who were then mostly unknown to an art establishment that ignored experimental art without a ready market.
New York Figurative Expressionism is a visual arts movement and a branch of American Figurative Expressionism. Though the movement dates to the 1930s, it was not formally classified as "figurative expressionism" until the term arose as a counter-distinction to the New York-based postwar movement known as Abstract Expressionism.
Raymond Parker (1922-1990) was an Abstract expressionist painter who also is associated with Color Field painting and Lyrical Abstraction. Ray Parker was an influential art teacher and an important Color Field painter and an instrumental figure in the movement coined by Clement Greenberg called Post-Painterly Abstraction.
20th-century Western painting begins with the heritage of late-19th-century painters Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and others who were essential for the development of modern art. At the beginning of the 20th century, Henri Matisse and several other young artists including the pre-cubist Georges Braque, André Derain, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck, revolutionized the Paris art world with "wild", multi-colored, expressive landscapes and figure paintings that the critics called Fauvism. Matisse's second version of The Dance signified a key point in his career and in the development of modern painting. It reflected Matisse's incipient fascination with primitive art: the intense warm color of the figures against the cool blue-green background and the rhythmical succession of the dancing nudes convey the feelings of emotional liberation and hedonism.
American Figurative Expressionism is a 20th-century visual art style or movement that first took hold in Boston, and later spread throughout the United States. Critics dating back to the origins of Expressionism have often found it hard to define. One description, however, classifies it as a Humanist philosophy, since it's human-centered and rationalist. Its formal approach to the handling of paint and space is often considered a defining feature, too, as is its radical, rather than reactionary, commitment to the figure.
Mary Lee Abbott was an American artist, known as a member of the New York School of abstract expressionists in the late 1940s and 1950s. Her abstract and figurative work were also influenced by her time spent in Saint Croix and Haiti, where she lived off and on throughout the 1950s.
Janet Sobel, born Jennie Olechovsky, was a Ukrainian-born American Abstract Expressionist painter whose career started mid-life, at age forty-five in 1938. Sobel pioneered the drip painting technique that directly influenced Jackson Pollock. She was credited as exhibiting the first instance of all-over painting seen by Clement Greenberg, a notable art critic.
Philip Pavia (1911-2005) was a culturally influential American artist of Italian descent, known for his scatter sculpture and figurative abstractions, and the debate he fostered among many of the 20th century's most important art thinkers. A founder of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, he "did much to shift the epicenter of Modernism from Paris to New York," both as founding organizer of The Club and as founder, editor and publisher of the short-lived but influential art journal It Is: A Magazine for Abstract Art. Reference to the magazine appears in the archives of more than two dozen celebrated art figures, including Picasso, Peggy Guggenheim, and art critic Clement Greenberg. The Club is credited with inspiring art critic Harold Rosenberg’s influential essay “The American Action Painters" and the historic 9th Street Show.
George McNeil was an American abstract expressionist painter.
Woman VI is an abstract work of art painted by Willem de Kooning in 1953, which was first displayed at the Sidney Janis Gallery in Manhattan. Since the 1955 Carnegie International Exhibition, Woman VI has been on view at the Carnegie Museum of Art as part of the Postwar Abstraction collection. The Woman paintings of the early 1950s are widely considered to be de Kooning’s most important works for their significance to postwar American cultural history and social events, such as the mid-century Feminist Movements. Many of the paintings are speculated to be abstracted portraits of Marilyn Monroe. Woman VI is notable within the series for its brighter palette of green and red paint employed in larger fields of color.
Norman L. Kleeblatt is a curator, critic, and consultant based in New York City. A long-term curator at the Jewish Museum in New York, he served as the Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator from 2005 to 2017.
The Club has been called "a schoolhouse of sorts ... as well as a theater, gallery space, and a dancehall...." Created by abstract expressionist sculptor Philip Pavia, The Club grew out of the informal gatherings among dozens of painters and sculptors who all had art studios in Lower Manhattan between 8th and 12th streets and First and Sixth Avenues during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Membership included many of New York's most important mid-century artists and thinkers, predominantly painters and sculptors like Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Isamu Noguchi, John Ferren, and Robert Motherwell, as well as nearly all the artists later called the New York School. But other celebrated artists, cultural figures and major 20th-century thinkers attended meetings, including philosopher Joseph Campbell, composer John Cage and political theorist Hannah Arendt. Structured to facilitate the growth and dissemination of ideas about art by artists for artists, especially abstract expressionist art, The Club lent New York's art scene the vitality and international influence Paris had long monopolized, and U.S. artists had long craved.
It is. A Magazine for Abstract Art was an influential limited edition fine arts magazine that only published six issues in its seven years of existence. Founded by the abstract expressionist sculptor Philip Pavia, the magazine's contributors included a who's who of some of the 20th century's most important artists. Although it primarily focused on painters and sculptors like Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Helen Frankenthaler, Jackson Pollock and Isamu Noguchi, it also published artists of other kinds, like musician John Cage and poet Allen Ginsberg. Collectively, the magazines served to catalyze, and catalogue, the contemporaneous life cycle of abstract expressionist thought, from creation to mature expression. Reference to the magazine appears in the archives of Picasso, Motherwell and André Breton, as well as collector Peggy Guggenheim, critic Clement Greenberg and nearly two dozen others.