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Hard Edge Painting A Form Of Abstract Art

Updated on February 7, 2016

Hard Edge Painting A Form Of Abstract Art

Karl Benjamin, "Orange, Red, Umber" 1958
Karl Benjamin, "Orange, Red, Umber" 1958 | Source

Hard-edge painting is a form of abstract art that became widespread in the 1960s. The term was coined by the writer, curator and art critic Jules Langsner, along with Peter Selz in 1959, for his exhibition Four Abstract Classicist at San Fransisco Museum of Art. It is characterized by areas of flat color, with sharp clear or hard edges. It reinforces the idea of the canvas or paper as a field of abstract forms. It also emphasizes on the flatness of the surface, showing monochromatic areas of color.

According to the British critic Lawrence Alloway, "the whole picture becomes a unit, forms extend the length of the painting and are restricted to two or three tones. The result of this sparseness is that the spatial effect of figures on the field is avoided".

Key characteristics of hard-edge painting:

  • Flat surface
  • Clean lines
  • Colorful geometric areas
  • Canvas or paper as a unit

In some respects, it is related to minimalism, in that it is an anonymous construction of a simple object. The paintings are large, simplified with razor-sharp contours and broad areas of bright unmodulated color, that have been stained into an unprimed canvas.

Ellsworth Kelly, the American painter, sculptor, and printmaker, has been a leading exponent of the hard-edge style. The forms are finite and not intended to evoke any recollections of specific shapes in the spectator, that he may have encountered in some other connection. They are autonomous shapes, sufficient in themselves.

Hard-edge abstraction was part of a general tendency to move away from the expressive qualities. It is known for its economy of form, fullness of color, impersonal execution, and smooth surface planes. It differs greatly from its popular predecessor, the action painting.

Hard-edge differs from other types of geometric abstraction in that it rejects both lyrical and mathematical composition, because even in this simplified field, they are a means of personal expression for the artist.

This mini-movement of American Art was a sub-variant of Post-painterly abstraction - a trend away from gestural abstraction expressionism. Hard-edge painters went to great efforts to depersonalize their compositions in order to prioritize formal elements, such as line, shape, and color, and downplay the less important elements. They were more interested in design and structure, rather than color.

Reference sources:

  1. Hard-edge Painting - The Art Story; www.theartstory.org/movement-hard-edge-painting.htm
  2. hard-edge painting/art/Britannica.com; www.britannica.com/art/hard-edge-painting
  3. Hard Edge Painting - Visual Arts Encyclopedia; www.visual-arts-cork.com/history-of-art/hard-edge-painting.htm

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    • Robie Benve profile image

      Robie Benve 

      2 years ago from Ohio

      I had seen this kind of paintings, but I had no idea that hard-edge abstract painting was actually a movement. I learned something new today, thanks!

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