Color Field Painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and 1950s.

It was pioneered by artists like Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Barnett Newman who used large areas of flatly colored surfaces to create their works.

The movement was inspired by European Modernism, but it also drew inspiration from Asian philosophy and poetry.

The term “color field” was coined by artist Robert Motherwell to describe paintings that were done without references to nature or recognizable images.

Instead, these artists focused on using pure color in order to express themselves more directly through their work.

The Pioneers of Color Field Painting

The Color Field Painting movement was pioneered by a group of artists who were inspired by the Abstract Expressionists, but wanted to take it in a new direction.

The pioneers of this art movement were Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still.

They were joined later by Ad Reinhardt and Morris Louis. Kenneth Noland was also an important figure in this movement because he helped define its principles with his paintings that used geometric shapes instead of brush strokes or drips like Pollock’s work did.

The Development of Color Field Painting

The Color Field Painting movement was influenced by Abstract Expressionism and Post-Painterly Abstraction.

The term “color field” was first used in the 1940s to describe an abstract work by Hans Hofmann, who had studied with Kandinsky and Mondrian in Europe.

He had also been influenced by Cezanne’s use of color theory and Paul Klee’s sense of humor.

The emergence of Hard Edge Painting happened around 1952 when Clyfford Still began using geometric shapes that were more defined than those used by Rothko or Newman, who preferred soft edges in their paintings.

Notable Color Field Paintings

The following are a few notable examples of color field paintings:

Rothko’s White Center (1951),

Newman’s Vir Heroicus Sublimis (1950),


Still’s Autumn Rhythm (1952).

Rothko’s White Center is perhaps the most famous example of this style, and it remains one of his most celebrated works.

It was acquired by The Art Institute of Chicago in 1955 with funds from the estate of Mrs.

Potter Palmer, who had been an early patron of Rothko and his work.

The painting measures 6 feet tall by 9 feet wide and features four rectangles of different sizes arranged vertically on a background field of white paint.

Each rectangle contains various shades ranging from reds to blues;

however, none are pure colors but rather mixtures that create an overall effect similar to stained glass windows found in Gothic cathedrals or medieval churches, a reference perhaps intended by Rothko himself when referring to this particular piece as “my cathedral.”

Techniques of Color Field Painting

The color field painting movement began in the 1940s and continued into the 1960s, but it’s still very much alive today.

Color field artists were known for their use of large canvases, flatness of surface and color blocking or gradients.

The use of large canvases allowed artists to create an expansive work that could be viewed from afar without losing any detail or definition due to its size.

Their surfaces were also very flat–there was no illusionism here!

This technique created a sense of space within each piece as well as between them when they were placed together on a wall (which we’ll talk about later).

The Legacy of Color Field Painting

The legacy of Color Field painting is far-reaching and continues to impact artists today.


The movement influenced the Minimalist art movement, which focused on simple geometric forms in monochromatic colors.

It also had an impact on Neo-Expressionism, a style that emerged in the 1970s where artists expressed their emotions through abstract paintings.

Finally, it contributed to Postmodern Art because some artists used elements from pop culture in their paintings (think Andy Warhol).

Contemporary Color Field Painting

Let’s look at some contemporary color field painters:

Ellsworth Kelly, who was born in 1923, is a major figure in American Abstract Expressionism. His paintings are known for their bright colors and geometric forms.

Gerhard Richter was born in 1932 and is considered one of Germany’s most important contemporary painters.

He uses traditional materials such as oil paint on canvas to create abstract works that are often large in scale and use vibrant colors with strong contrasts between light and dark areas within each painting.

Bridget Riley was born in 1931 and gained international attention after winning first place at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Annual Exhibition (ICA) in 1959 with her painting “Composition No 5”.

She became known for her use of black lines against bright backgrounds, which she used to create geometric patterns throughout her work.


Collecting Color Field Paintings

If you’re interested in collecting Color Field paintings, there are a few things to consider.

First, it’s important to know that these works are highly sought after by collectors and museums alike. This means that the investment potential for these pieces is high.

Secondly, if you’re looking for an original work of art by an artist like Robert Motherwell or Helen Frankenthaler (two of the most famous artists associated with this movement),

auctions are one of your best bets for finding them at reasonable prices because they tend to sell quickly and often at record-breaking prices!

You can also find prints of many famous artists’ works on sites like Artsy or Artnet Auctions where they’re listed alongside other types of collectibles such as jewelry or furniture pieces from around the world.”

Color Field Painting – Wrap Up

The Color Field Painting Art Movement was a reaction to Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism.

It was characterized by bright, flat colors that were applied in thin layers on large canvases.

The artists used the entire canvas to create their works, rather than focusing on specific areas of interest or using contrasting colors to create depth.

These artists wanted to make art accessible for everyone;

hey wanted people who didn’t understand art history or theory to be able to appreciate it as well.

The movement started in New York City but quickly spread across America and Europe before fading away during the 1980s due in part because there wasn’t much innovation happening anymore within this particular genre of painting