Page 1


02 ,03 Content

04 ,05 History

06 ,07

08 ,13 Movements

14 ,15 Art collections

Key ideas 3

History of the term History Started: 1959 Ended: Early 1970s



The term was coined

reaction to the more painterly

by writer, curator and Los

or gestural forms of Abstract

Angeles Times art critic Jules

expressionism, adopted a

Langsner, along with Peter

knowingly impersonal paint

Selz, in 1959, to describe

application and delineated

the work of painters from

areas of color with particular

California, who, in their

sharpness and clarity.

'60 This approach to abstract



the quality of hard-edgedness,

school of painting, but is also

painting became widespread

for instance the Precisionists

a generally descriptive term,

in the 1960s, though California

also displayed this quality to

for these qualities found in

was its creative center.

a great degree in their work.

any painting. Hard-edged

Hard-edge can be seen to be

painting can be both figurative

associated with one or more

or nonrepresentational.

Other, earlier, movements, or styles have also contained



Key Ideas is known for its economy

Lorser Feitelson. Although,

part of a general tendency

Hard-edge abstraction was

of form, fullness of color,

later, the style was often

to move away from the

impersonal execution, and

referred to as "California hard-

expressive qualities of gestural

smooth surface planes.The

edge," and these four artists


term "hard-edge abstraction"

became synonymous with

was devised by Californian

the movement, Langsner

to avoid th shallow, post-Cubist

Many painters also sought

art critic Jules Langsner, and

eventually decided to title the

space of Willem de Kooning's

was initially intended to title a

show Four Abstract Classicists

work, and instead adopted

1959 exhibition that included

(1959), as he felt that the

the open fields of color

four West Coast artists - Karl

style marked a classical turn

seen in the work of Barnett

Benjamin, John McLaughlin,

away from the romanticism of

Newman.Hard-edge painting

Frederick Hammersley and

Abstract Expressionism.


Later Developments In 1964 Langsner curated another exhibition, this time at the Pavilion Gallery (otherwise known as the Newport Pavilion) in Newport Beach, CA. Combining his original term with the subtitle assigned by Alloway, Langsner called this exhibition California Hard-Edge Painting. Included in the show were the original four from Four Abstract Classicists (1959), along with artists such as Larry Bell, Helen Lundenberg, and John Coplans. But this should not suggest that the term "hard-edge" was therefore an established reference point for years to come; it had to compete with several others that attempted to describe similar work in the period, including "One-Image painting," and "Systemic painting." Some curators therefore tried to avoid descriptive labels entirely, and in 1963 an exhibition entitled


Second-Generation Abstraction was held at the Jewish Museum in New York. The show consisted of 47 works by nine artists: Al Held, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Miriam Schapiro, George Ortman, Paul Brach, and Raymond Parker. It was significant for its introduction of New York-based artists into the hard-edge school of abstract painting. Up to this point, the tendency was only associated with those California artists who were widely considered rebels from the New York School. Although the term "hard-edge" is helpful in describing the tendencies of the late 1960s, it had barely been launched before artists were also moving in new directions, and it fell from use as abstract painting explored new problems in the 1970s.



Concepts and Styles

artists applied their paints very

painters also differed greatly

carefully and sought to avoid

from more traditional color

Although the four artists

any suggestion of spirituality

field painters, because

included in Langsner's show

or soulful expression. Frank

although their work employed

were very different, they were

Stella is typical of those who

color as one of its principle

united by their use of clean,

might be described as hard-

components, they were more

lucid composition, intense

edge painters, and who

preoccupied with design and

color, and lack of surface

sought to avoid the high-flown

structure. In fact, even though

incident. They were also

drama of action painting - like

Kenneth Noland had been

influenced by the sense of

him, most felt that, by the mid

a student of Josef Albers,

"wholism," or single, unitary

1950s, gestural abstraction

who famously espoused

composition, seen in the work

becoming a manner that was

the "interaction of color," he

of Barnett Newman and other

being copied by legions of less

and others like him often

color field painters. Hard-edge

talented followers, all of whom

tended to employ colors that

abstraction differed greatly

were pretending the anguish

failed to relate in the way

from its popular predecessor,

and existential insight.

Albers envisaged. Frederick

action painting, in that the

Many of the hard-edge

Hammersley's 11


Los Angeles County Museum

painting that was becoming

of Art, in 1959, which included

popular in California. He

Californian art critic, poet and

artists Frederick Hammersley,

bewlieved it recalled the

psychiatrist Jules Langsner

Karl Benjamin, John McLaughlin

geometric abstraction of Piet

began to observe an emerging

and Lorser Feitelson. It was

Mondrian, Josef Albers, Ad

trend in abstract art that

titled Four Abstract Classicists.

Reinhardt and others. After

In the late 1950s, the

stemmed from color field

Langsner coined the term

LACMA, the show traveled to

painting, yet tended to employ

"hard edge colorforms" to

England and Ireland, at which

clean lines and contrasting

describe the paintings on

time British art critic Lawrence

hues. He chose to highlight this

display and, more generally,

Alloway subtitled the show

by staging an exhibition at the

the new style of color field

California Hard-edge.


Artwork description & Analysis of Art. Benjamin's use of

screens, the artist was doing

Benjamin's signature

Considered one of

somber blues, his sleek forms

nothing more than playing with

paintings, Black Pillars

and shadow play are now

opposing colors and forms

has won new renown after

considered emblematic of

to create a visually engaging

becoming a centerpiece of

post-war American style.

picture. Oil on canvas - Private

the recent traveling exhibition

Although some of Benjamin's


Birth of the Cool, organized by

color forms in Black Pillars

the Orange County Museum

recall the form of old television


Artist: Frederick

Opposing #15 (1959)


which was the presence of

Hammersley Opposing #15

rich and saturated color, clean

contains the visual symmetry

lines, and flat surface, and

often associated with post-

a disregard for relationships

painterly abstraction and Color

between the colors that

Field painting, but it lacks any

comprise the painting. All

sort of color interaction or

this suggests the shift in

balance. Hammersley pitted

interests that took place as

contrasting colors (mainly

Color Field painting ceded

primaries) against each other,

to Post-painterly abstraction;

along with basic geometric

preoccupation with the

forms that seem to have no

expressive power of color

business interacting. The

gave way to interest in optical

end result displays one of

phenomena.Oil on linen -

the defining characteristics of

Collection of Jayne and Mark

many hard-edge paintings,

Murrel, Newport Beach, CA

Dichotomic Organization (1959)

Artist: Lorser Feitelson

1960s. Jules Langsner once

Artwork description

referred to Feitelson's work as

& Analysis: Feitelson's

containing "nothing ambiguous

Dichotomic Organization

or fuzzily subjective." In other

could be called a hard-edged

words, Langsner perceived

interpretation of a Clyfford Still

Feitelson to be an artist with a

painting. The sharp color forms

stunningly clear vision, which

and hot-vs.-cold themes recall

was to create captivating art

Still's own brand of Color Field

without any indication of the

painting, while Feitelson's

artist's perspective.

sense of dimension all make this a very unique work in the

Oil on canvas - Nora Eccles

catalog of hard-edge paintings

Harrison Museum of Art,

of the late 1950s and early

Logan, Utah


Kelly Wang The Art Institute of Seattle

The Hard - Edge Painting  
The Hard - Edge Painting  

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