Clyfford Still (American, 1904–1980)
Oil on cloth; 36 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. (92.1 x 76.8 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Clyfford Still, 1986 (1986.441.1)
Clyfford Still was considered an important member of the first-generation Abstract Expressionist painters in New York in the 1940s and '50s, although he created early abstractions such as 1943-A while still living in San Francisco and Richmond, Virginia. By eliminating all representational imagery and any sense of illusionistic space, he conveyed spiritual and metaphysical content—what he called "a living spirit"—in the jagged patterns of paint applied with a palette knife on solid color fields.
Throughout Still's four-decade career, his work underwent subtle changes, but maintained a remarkable consistency in its paint handling and compositional format. In general, the paintings from the mid- to late 1940s were densely composed and thickly painted in somber colors. During the 1950s and 1960s, they became increasingly open, brighter in texture and color, and reached a majestic scale that is a hallmark of Abstract Expressionist painting. In the 1970s, in some of his paintings, he returned to an earlier concept, exemplified by 1943-A, of defining space with just a few strokes of paint.