Morris Louis biography

Morris Louis was perhaps the greatest exponent of Colour Field painting. He was a notorious perfectionist with many paintings being destroyed that did not meet his exacting standards.

Born Morris Louis Bernstein in 1912 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, he was raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He studied at the Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts from 1929 to 1933, moved to New York for six years to work on the Federal Art Project then returned to Baltimore in 1940. After seven years there he moved to Washington, first to the suburb of Silver Spring then in 1952 to the city itself.

Although keeping himself detached from the New York art scene it was a trip to the city in 1953 that led him to appropriate the technique he first saw used in the work of Helen Frankenthaler. She applied liquid paint onto unprimed canvas, it was then allowed to flow across and soak into the canvas, the result being a stain of paint as opposed to a layer of paint applied on the surface. Louis experimented on this basis creating paintings of extraordinary vibrancy.

Many of the leading American abstract painters of the 1950s and 60s, Louis included, were exponents of Colour Field painting, where whole works consisted of large expanses of more or less unmodulated colour. Louis painted a number of pictures using this technique beginning with ‘Veils’ (1954). In ‘Where’ (1960) his style moved towards colours positioned in rainbow-like bands on a bare canvas.

By the end of the Fifties his reputation was confirmed. He had his first foreign exhibition in 1960 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. Sadly, however, he died of lung cancer just two years later. His paintings remain widely exhibited.

“With Louis, fully autonomous abstract painting came into its own for really the first time, and did so in paintings of a quality that matches the level of their abstraction.” John Elderfield (from the introduction to the Art Council’s Exhibition of Louis’ work in 1974).

From: artrepublic


Decoding Jackson Pollock

An interesting article from

Did the Abstract Expressionist hide his name amid the swirls and torrents of a legendary 1943 mural?

  • By Henry Adams
  • Smithsonian magazine, November 2009

El Lissitzky

El Lissitzky was born Eleazar Markovich Lisitskii in Vitebsk in 1890. From 1909 until 1914 Lissitzky studied architecture in Darmstadt. In 1919 Lissitzky became a professor at the art school in Vitebsk, where he met Marc Chagall and Kasimir Malevich. At that time Lissitzky turned to the Suprematist theory of art and the UNOWIS group, beginning to work on a series of abstract paintings he called ‘Proun’ [‘For the New Art’]. Between 1921 and 1925 Lissitzky worked in Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland but became a professor at the Moscow Art Academy in 1921.

He founded the international journal ‘Vesc’ in 1922 and devoted himself increasingly to typography and exhibition design. Between 1923 and 1925 Lissitzky designed the ‘Wolkenbügel’ project . In 1925 Lissitzky returned to Moscow and taught at the post-Revolutionary art school Vkhutemas.

Between 1926 and 1934 Lissitzky designed several exhibitions. Lissitzky worked on the journal ‘The USSR in Architecture’, for which Lissitzky and his wife, Sophie Lissitzky-Küppers, designed a great many issues. Lissitzky was a Russian avant-garde artist who did not limit himself to developing a form of abstract painting but rather extended the new functionalism to photography, book design, architecture and urban planning. His enormous versatility enabled El Lissitzky to forge links between the Russian Constructivists and Neo-Plasticism (De Stijl), the Bauhaus and Dada. As a painter and architect, Lissitzky was both personally and artistically close to the painter and architectural model-maker Kasimir Malevich. El Lissitzky died in Moscow in 1941.


Taken from: The Art Directory