How the Father of Abstract Expressionism Forsook Fame to Pursue Art
Have you ever heard of Clyfford Still? Many modern-day art lovers have not. The irony in this is that Clyfford Still was and is incredibly influential to the art world. In fact, Still, who was born in 1904 and died in 1980, was one of the pioneers of abstract expressionism.
Still’s early pieces (from the 1930’s), which depicted farmhands during the Great Depression, give a nod to Alberta, Canada and Washington State, the locations he was raised in. In the following decade or so, Still’s work began to take on a more abstract shape. It would be later in his career that Clyfford Still would help father the movement of abstract expressionism.
The young artist spent some time in California, then moved to New York City, a place where other would-be abstract artists, such as Jackson Pollack, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, lived. While Still shared some commonalities with these artists, his artwork was decidedly unique and strayed from geometric shapes.
People had begun to take notice of Still around 1951, but by then he had chosen to separate himself from the commercial art world. Still was certainly not forsaking his art by doing this, but rather devoting himself wholly to it by distancing himself from distractions. This noble decision was probably one that prevented Clyfford Still from becoming widely well known.
After relocating to Maryland in 1961, Still consistently produced painted artwork on canvases and pastel drawings. He did all of this independently of the commercial sector of the world of art.
While in the past Still has been somewhat obscure, the opening of The Clyfford Still museum in Denver, CO, might change all of that. The museum shows only a portion of Still’s pieces of art, which are “considered the most intact body of work of any major artist.” Even more of Still’s works are being uncovered as curators discover pieces from his farmhouse. As this man’s collections are viewed by more and more people, it is likely that recognition of him and his contributions to art will increase.
Is fame necessary to validate an artist’s brilliance? Clyfford Still’s life proved that the answer to this question is no. Still was truly devoted to art and obviously cared little for the accolades of man. But while Clyfford Still didn’t receive all the praise he deserved on this earth, his life is beginning to speak in increasing volumes to a new generation of artists.
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