Session One: Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner (1908-1984) was a key transitional figure within abstraction, who connected early-20th-century art with the new ideas of postwar America. Inspired by artist Piet Mondrian’s “grid,” Krasner helped devise the “all-over” technique, which in turn influenced Pollock’s revolutionary “drip paintings”. Krasner was remarkable for her artistic versatility and advanced skill, which, coupled with her intensive training in art theory, enabled her to revise her style and technique multiple times over the course of her career.
Session Two: Elaine de Kooning
While Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989) did use gestural brushstrokes in most of her work, much in the tradition of the Action Painters, Elaine’s work was figurative and representational, at least to some degree. Her canvases were rarely purely abstract (in the vein of Mark Rothko or Jackson Pollock). As an avid world traveler, de Kooning was exposed to and inspired by a wide variety of artwork that helped make her one of the more diverse artists within the Abstract Expressionist movement.
Session Three: Grace Hartigan
Grace Hartigan (1922-2008) was a Second-Generation Abstract Expressionist, who forged a new form of painting based on bold gesture and experimental brushwork. Within the movement, she was respected for her commitment and thick skin, and her striking paintings reflect this attitude. Hartigan’s belief that painting must have “content and emotion” continued throughout her career. Her best-known works combine the abstraction of her early work with recognizable images from everyday life or motifs from art history. The distinction between abstraction and figuration is often blurred by her experimental brushwork and lack of shading.
Session Four: Helen
Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) was among the most influential artists of the mid-20th century. Introduced early to major Abstract Expressionists, Frankenthaler was influenced by their painting practices, but developed her own distinct approach to the style. She invented the “soak-stain” technique, producing luminous color washes that appeared to merge with the canvas and deny any hint of three-dimensional illusionism. Her breakthrough gave rise to the “next big thing” in art—Color Field Painting.
Session Five: Joan Mitchell
Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) is known for the compositional rhythms, bold coloration, and sweeping gestural brushstrokes on large and often multi-paneled paintings. Although inspired by landscape, nature, and poetry, her intention was not to create a recognizable image, but to convey emotions. Mitchell’s mature work embodies a highly abstract, richly colored and calligraphic style, which balances elements of structured composition with a mood of wild improvisation.