Art History Definition: Action Painting

© The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; used with permission
Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956). Convergence, 1952. Oil on canvas. 93 1/2 x 155 in. (237.5 x 393.7 cm). Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1956. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y. © The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


( noun) - Action Painting emphasizes the process of making art, often through a variety of techniques that include dripping, dabbing, smearing, and even flinging paint on to the surface of the canvas. These energetic techniques depend on broad gestures directed by the artist's sense of control interacting with chance or random occurrences. For this reason, Action Painting is also referred to as Gestural Abstraction.
The artists and the various techniques are associated with the movement Abstract Expressionism and The New York School of the late 1940s, 1950s and 1960s (for example, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning and Franz Kline).

The term "action painting" was invented by the critic Harold Rosenberg and appeared for the first time in his article "American Action Painters" ( ArtNews, December 1952).

In France, action painting and Abstract Expressionism are called Tachisme (Tachism).


ack·shun payn·ting