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  • Writer's pictureHaydn Dickenson

FEMALE ARTISTS AND ABSTRACTION



As a keen enthusiast of the films of Stanley Kubrick. I had been aware of paintings by his artist wife, Christiane as seen in two of his films that I particularly admire – A Clockwork Orange and Eyes Wide Shut, but not until later was I able to see her pictures in reality, at Childwickbury Manor in Hertfordshire, UK where Christiane Kubrick still lives and works .


I remember the tangible energy that emanated from these paintings, something that drew me towards them, engendering a magnetic sensation deep in the belly. Christiane Kubrick, though not an abstractionist, is a painter whose work I find profoundly expressive and communicative.


I experienced a similar sensation of magnetism upon visiting the incredible Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London late in 2016. Already punch-drunk by the sheer impact of that magnificent show I walked, mesmerised, into the final room to encounter Joan Mitchell's enormous quadtych painting, 'Salut Tom'. Created in memory of her friend, the critic and curator Thomas B Hess, there is not a shred of sombreness or sentimentality in this massive four-panel painting, which seems to erupt with joy and a celebration of life.




SALUT TOM - JOAN MITCHELL (1979)


Joan Mitchell is just one of the searingly powerful female abstractionists whose works move and empower me.


Contemplating Mitchell's work recently, with its urgent, gestural mark-making (often produced by the artist's fingers or flung directly at the canvas straight from the tube), I was struck by the importance of female artists in the development of Abstraction.


Indeed, the very origins of the abstract movement reside in the work of the pioneering Swedish artist, Hilma Af Klint.




SVANEN - HILMA AF KLINT (1915)

I have written in previous articles about the significance of the Theosophical Movement in the emergence of Abstract Art. Hilma af Klint. (1862-1944), herself a Theosophist is considered to be one of the pioneer abstractionists, much of her work predating that of Mondrian, Kandinsky and Malevich. Klint also exerted a notable influence on the paintings of Sonia Delaunay (1885-1979)




COLOR RHYTHMS - SONIA DELAUNEY


The American artist Helen Frankenthaler (1928-2011) is best-known for her so-called 'soak-stain' canvases. An exponent of the New York Abstract Expressionist group, she was closely associated with Jackson Pollock, Hans Hoffmann and Robert Motherwell whom she married. Her work is characterised by muted, flowing, ethereal swathes of colour, demonstrating a sharp contrast to Motherwell's monolithic, elemental shapes.




TUTTI FRUTTI - HELEN FRANKENTHALER 1966


Finally, in today's short and by no means exhaustive survey of female abstract artists, let us look at the work of Lee Krasner (1908-1984).




UNTITLED MURAL STUDY - LEE KRASNER (1940)


Lee Krasner's work carries a very powerful electricity. One of my favourites among her paintings is GOTHIC LANDSCAPE (1961), which hangs in the Tate Modern in London. I love the predominant sepia tones, accented with small areas of white paint and delicate slices of colour. Her work has, at times, been overshadowed by that of her husband Jackson Pollock, but Krasner was undoubtedly a major figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement in her own right.


Also tremendously inspiring to me are the abstract and quasi-abstract works of Gillian Ayres, Barbara Hepworth with her magnificently primal sculptures, Louise Bourgeois and Vanessa Bell.


“Women are the real architects of society”, wrote Harriet Beecher Stowe. We can see from the very dawning of Abstraction that it was a woman, Hilma af Klint who ignited the flame and was the true architect of that movement, to be followed by so many exceptional female artists in her wake.




Copyright Haydn Dickenson 2023

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lidaselida
Jan 22, 2023

Thanks for your article! Amazing as always, I learned a lot!💙

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