Action Painting


A term coined by the American critic Harold Rosenberg in 1952 to define a specific set of Abstract Expressionist artists who saw the canvas as an “arena in which to act.” Artists like Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline were associated with this term due to their more spontaneous and/or physical act of painting. Such an idea of painting—emphasizing its physical process—would be highly influential on later artists; Pollock, for example, was a major impetus behind the appearance of Happenings in the United States in the 1960s. Various critics have tied the appearance of action painting to the ideas of Jung and Freud as well as Surrealism. Action was a way to evoke the primeval and an archetypal expression, and automatic painting and drawing techniques had previously been practiced by Joan Miró and André Masson.