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Art, Artists & Mid-Century Modern Design (Part II)

Yesterday, we discussed how and why Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism came to so strongly represent the mid-century modern period in the art world, and today we’re going to view some of that period’s most influential artists.

Of course, timing is a primary factor in how these two movements took center stage for mid-century, but there’s also much to say about the artists themselves.

An interesting question: Did these artists and their work influence the mid-century look, or is the art a response to what was happening more broadly in architecture, furniture design and textiles?

Influential Abstract Expressionists

Jackson Pollack (1912-1956) – Easily one of the most famous in the movement, Pollack’s “drip” technique on large canvases is instantly recognizable among both amateur and professional art appreciators alike.

Joan Mitchell (1925-1992) – Mitchell’s work, which abandoned the formlessness of the abstract in favor of landscape inspiration, represented a giant leap forward for women in art during a movement dominated by men.

Mark Rothko (1903-1970) – A style that is also easily recognized, Rothko’s most famous work relies heavily on bold colors applied to canvas in simplified forms to create a sense of depth and emotional tension (at bottom right). 

Influential Surrealists

Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) – Kahlo disapproved of being called a surrealist, and her fame for realism in her self-portraits lends credence to the cause, but much of her work is also inarguably dreamlike and roots her firmly in the movement.

Salvador Dali (1904-1989) – One of Surrealism’s greatest champions, Dali worked in several mediums and is famous for what has become some of the movement's most iconic imagery, such as the melting clocks in "The Persistence of Memory" (at top right).  

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) – Picasso was a prolific painter and sculptor whose work spanned several modes throughout his career, and continues to be a powerful influence in the modern art world.

Print Choices

One thing that makes these artists great is that they practiced many different styles within these movements, and in Modern Art as a whole. So, you have a lot of options when considering their work.

And, don’t worry if you can’t spring for an original – there are plenty of prints available from these greats in Surrealism and Abstract Impressionism. 

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