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Clyfford Still: A Radical Abstract Style

IMAGE 1 STILL: Clyfford Still - Untitled - 1946 - Oil on canvas - 62 x 44 5/8 in. (157.5 x 113.3 cm) - Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still (1904-1980) is not the most well know of the “New York School” of artists. But he was the first to break through to a new and radically abstract style devoid of obvious subject matter. Still used fields of color to explore dramatic conflicts between humans and nature taking place on a monumental scale.“

A graduate of Spokane University in Washington, Still’s style evolved from a type of regionalism to an abstract presentation of landscape. He taught at Washington State University for eight years, then moved to California, where he worked in the shipbuilding and aircraft industries, during the war years. He then taught at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, from 1943-45, followed by a year in New York. Moving to California, Still taught at the San Francisco Art Institute until 1950. He lived for awhile in New York, and ultimately settled on a 22-acre farm in Maryland, where he remained until his death.

Still's overriding theme is the existential struggle of the human spirit against the forces of nature, a notion that finds expression in the vertical forms that reach defiantly through the majority of his compositions.” His work influenced many artists, including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman, as well as other color-field painters, all discussed elsewhere on What About Art?

In his will, Still stipulated that the remainder of his estate (more than 2,000 works) would be available to the public in any American city that devoted a museum exclusively to his art. The city of Denver eventually established the Clyfford Still Museum. It opened in 2011, more than thirty years after Still’s death.

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