Clyfford Still

Art on this Day



American artist Clyfford Still died on this day 37 years ago in Baltimore. He is famous for being among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists after the Second World War together with Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.



Still experimented with abstract techniques starting from the 30s, but it will be mostly from the years following the Second World War, also thanks to the influence of Pollock and Rothko, when his style fully develops into Abstract Expressionism. These painters were in fact crucial for the artist’s career: Still’s canvases characterised by large brush movements and pigmented colours perfectly compromise Pollock’s action painting and Rothko’s colour field painting. However, when in Rothko and Newman colours are organised geometrically in the space, Still’s technique adopts a less regular colour disposition in favour of a more free approach. Another difference with Newman and Rothko is in the way the colour is spread out on the canvas: Still’s works usually present a more thick mixture of pigments which underlines the importance of the material. The colours that are more frequently used by the artists are black, yellow, white and red – and their variations.



His first solo show has been set up in San Francisco in 1943, the first of other increasingly successful exhibitions that have contributed on the raise of the Abstract Expressionism movement. However, despite his success, Still lived the rest of his life more and more isolated, often refusing to participate to his own shows. In 1961 he moved in Maryland in the countryside, where he spent most of his life, far from the art world’s clamour, and he died in Baltimore the 23th June 1980.