For others, among them Barnett Newman and Clyfford Still, the motivation was a search for the sublime.
Yet for all, as Mark Rothko eloquently postulated, "art was not about an experience, but was itself the experience." As with the poets of the period who challenged accepted literary standards to envelop their personal experiences within new formats, the painters of the 1950s created unique and distinctive images by merging their private states of imagination and feeling with innovative compositional structures.
Like any historical phenomenon, Abstract Expressionism defies precise definition. "Action painting," "American-type painting," and the "New York School" are phrases often used synonymously, although for most scholars and the public, Abstract Expressionism remains the most convenient and instantly recognizable umbrella under which to discuss the collective qualities of advanced American art at the midpoint of the twentieth century.
Moreover, while the artists subsequently labeled Abstract Expressionists frequently resisted categorization and often stressed the philosophical and formal distinctions among themselves, there is nevertheless a consensus among scholars that Abstract Expressionism was a cohesive intellectual and artistic experience.
The most notorious of these was the Cedar Street Tavern on University Place near West Eighth Street.
The desire to maintain professional contact, as well as to proselytize, led Motherwell, Rothko, and William Baziotes (together with sculptor David Hare) to establish the Subjects of the Artist school in 1948 at 35 East Eighth Street.
For instance, Dutch-born Willem de Kooning, who moved to New York in 1927, befriended Armenian-born Arshile Gorky in 1930-1931; Russian-born but American-raised Mark Rothko in 1934; Philip Guston and Barnett Newman in 1937; and Franz Kline in 1939-1940.
The experience of Wyoming-born Jackson Pollock, who arrived in New York in 1930, although slower to coalesce, was not substantially different.
The flâneur has become an important figure for scholars, artists and writers and was taken up in the twentieth century by the Situationists.
In the years following the end of World War II, a small group of American painters living in New York seized the spotlight of artistic innovation--which for the past century had focused primarily on Paris--and rose to preeminence in the national and international art world.