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Art informel [Informalism; Lyrical Abstraction].

Term coined in 1950 by the French critic Michel Tapié, primarily in relation to the work of Wols, and subsequently applied more generally to a movement in European painting that began in the mid-1940s and flourished in the 1950s as a parallel development to Abstract Expressionism (especially action painting) in the USA. Sometimes referred to as TACHISM, ART AUTRE or Lyrical Abstraction, it was a type of abstraction in which form became subservient to the expressive impulses of the artist, and it was thus diametrically opposed to the cool rationalism of geometric abstraction. Antecedents can be found in the work of Kandinsky Vasily, Klee Paul and Dubuffet Jean and particularly in the Surrealist current of AUTOMATISM, such as that practised by Masson Andre. In its more precise historical sense its pioneers were artists based in Paris, such as Jean Fautrier, Wols (e.g. Composition, 1947; Hamburg, Ksthalle, or Yellow Composition, 1946–7) and Hans Hartung (e.g. T. 1949-9, 1949; Düsseldorf, Kstsamml. Nordrhein–Westfalen); Hartung in particular was producing paintings with many of the features of Art informel by the mid-1930s, as in T. 1935-1 (1935; Paris, Pompidou; for illustration see HARTUNG, HANS). The movement came to include Jean-Michel Atlan, Jean Bazaine, Roger Bissière, Camille Bryen, Alberto Burri, Charles Lapicque, Alfred Manessier, Georges Mathieu, Henri Michaux, Serge Poliakoff, Pierre Soulages, Nicolas de Staël, Antoni Tàpies and others. Following the lead of Surrealist automatism, current in Surrealism, Art informel pictures were executed spontaneously and often at speed so as to give vent to the subconscious of the artist. Though embodying a wide range of approaches to abstraction, the brushwork in such works is generally gestural or calligraphic, as in Michaux’s Untitled (1960; New York, Guggenheim) or Mathieu’s Capetians Everywhere (1954). Sometimes there is an emphasis on the texture or tactile quality of the paint, leading to a variant of Art informel referred to as MATTER PAINTING. Certain artists, such as Bazaine, Manessier and Poliakoff, produced paintings that appeared less spontaneous and more controlled, with a more consciously mediated composition and use of colour, as in Manessier’s Barrabas (1952; Eindhoven, Stedel. Van Abbemus.).


Masson Andre



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