The Amazing Creations of 12 Incredible Splattered Paint & Ink Artists

Whether we like it or not, the paint splatter is one of the most frequently used effects in modern graphic design and Photoshop splatter brushes are more popular than ever. With this in mind, we thought we’d take a look back at the founding fathers of the paint splatter, people like Jackson Pollock (of course), Cy Twombly and Sam Francis.

Many of the artists examined below can be considered “action painters”, for it was these pioneering splashers, flickers and dribblers who really put the paint splatter on the map (or at least on the canvas) for the first time. They had no interest in producing images of realistic objects, or even conveying emotions. All these guys wanted was to tap into the subconscious mind of the viewer by painting in an entirely unconscious and spontaneous way.

In addition to the action painters, we explore the splatter work of some even more modern, modern artists. Damien Hirst, Anish Kapoor and Mark Wiener continue to feature paint and ink splatters in their work, thus keeping the splatter very much alive in the 21st century.

1. Jackson Pollock

Thinking about splattered paint, Jackson Pollock is the first artist who springs to mind. Born in 1912, in Wyoming, USA, Pollock was one of the most prominent figures in the abstract expressionist movement and a founding father of action painting. His many works were created using the “drip” technique. He would pour, drip and flick paint onto a canvas laid flat on the floor, before manipulating the result with sticks, trowels and knives, rather than brushes.

Greyed Rainbow [1953]

Image: The Art Institute of Chicago

Convergence [1952]

Image: Ken Jennings

Shimmering Substance [1946]

Image: GMX

2. Norman Bluhm

American artist, Norman Bluhm, who lived and worked in Europe as well as the United States, was another eminent abstract expressionist and action painter. He worked alongside Joan Mitchell and Sam Francis, both of whom are featured in this article. His work is highly regarded amongst critics, despite never receiving the mainstream praise it so deserved.

Meet Me In The Park [1960]

Image: About

Untitled (violet) [1978]

Image: Fine Art Dealers Association

Sangamore [1963]

Image: Norman Bluhm(top image)

3. Sam Francis

Sam Francis, born in California, in 1923, studied botany, medicine and psychology alongside painting and printmaking. He began painting while hospitalised for several years following a WWII plane crash. Inspired by Rothko, he started painting large, monochromatic canvases, but later moved on to create the brightly coloured, splashed and splattered paintings for which he is most famous.

Untitled [1975]

Image: Ameringer | McEnery | Yohe

SF 92-14 [1992]

Image: artnet

Lyre Eight [1972]

Image: Masterworks Fine Art Gallery

4. Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, renowned artist in her own right, married Jackson Pollock in 1945. Sadly, her surviving body of work is small, as she frequently tore up paintings to create collages or simply destroyed them altogether.

Shattered Color [1947]

Image: artnet

Shellflower [1947]

Image: artnet

Ninety Degrees Intemperate [1979]

Image: Elizabeth Leach Gallery

5. Joan Mitchell

Born 1925, Joan Mitchell, along with Lee Krasner (above) and Helen Frankenthaler (below), was one of the few female painters of her time to gain widespread recognition. She wanted her large paintings, which often covered multiple panels, to “convey the feelings of a dying sunflower”.

Untitled [1968-69]

Image: Hauser & Wirth

Calvi [1964]

Image: Hauser & Wirth

Untitled circa [1956]

Image: University of Kentucky

6. Milton Resnick

Resnick was born in Russia, but moved to New York at a young age. Best known for his abstract figurative paintings, rather than those of the type below, he was heavily influenced by his good friends and colleagues Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, the latter of whom had a studio very nearby.

Swan [1961]

Image: artcritical

Genie [1959]

Image: Jan Lombardi

AS.2 [1959]

Image: Jan Lombardi

7. Helen Frankenthaler

Now 80 years old, Frankenthaler has produced many large expressionist paintings over her lifetime. Although her work has constantly changed and evolved over the years, she has stuck with her aim of producing “instant images”, rather than paintings that are laboured or overworked.

Untitled [1928]

Image: RasMarley

Swan Lake #2 [1961]

Image: Jan Lombardi

Before The Caves [1958]

Image: Berkeley Art Museum

8. Kazuo Shiraga

Shiraga is a member of Gutai Art, a Japanese avant-garde movement, established in 1954. While it’s possible to point to numerous similarities between his work and that of the action painters of New York (like Pollock and Resnick), Shiraga was heavily influenced by postwar Japan.

Kosha [1992]

Image: Annely Juda Fine Art

Composition [1961]

Image: artnet

Chijusei Shizenhaku [1961]

Image: gallerie georg nothelfer

9. Cy Twombly

Twombly is known the world over for his highly abstract, scribbled, graffiti-like paintings. Although much of his work is free from splatters, he often uses touches of bright colour on otherwise grey or tan canvases.

Ferragosto V [1961]

Image: ArtDaily

Quattro Stagioni: Autunno [1993-5]

Image: Articoli

Untitled [2001]

Image: Pitch Design Union

10. Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor is currently holding an exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. It features much splattering. One piece, entitled “Shooting into the Corner”, involves a large cannon and bucket-sized cartridges of burgundy paint. Throughout the day, members of Kapoor’s staff shoot paint from the canon, through an open doorway into a second, empty room. You can watch the live feed of the installation here.

Shooting Into The Corner [2008-2009]

Image: Artstage

Image: Guardian

11. Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst has become one of the most talked about artists of recent years, lauded and criticised in equal measure. Besides embalming tiger sharks and chopping farmyard animals in half, Hirst has created a number of splatter paintings by dripping household paint (much like that used by Pollock) onto a spinning medium. American skate company Supreme has featured some of his splatter pieces on a range of skateboard decks.

Beautiful Helios Hysteria Intense Painting (with Extra Inner Beauty) [2008]

Image: Art Quotes

Beautiful, Shattered, Mellow, Exploding, Paint-Filled Balloons Painting [1996]

Image: Art Quotes

Supreme Skateboards [2009]

Image: MiserableSubCulture

12. Mark Wiener

Lesser known New York artist, Mark Wiener, continues to create large, paint and sumi-e ink-splattered canvases in 2009. His work explores symmetry, spontaneity and geometric shapes.

Cross Narrative- Fly [2008]

Cross Narrative- The Other Side Fly VI [2008]

Images: Saatchi Gallery

About the author:

Tom is a freelance writer, living and working in North London. Fascinated by art, design and gadgets, he spends much of his time writing and blogging on these subjects. His other interests lie in music, film, fashion, football and generally enjoying life!

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  • User Gravatar Yves Lalonde
    October 19th, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    Hi tom,

    After including Joan Mitchell in your list, how could you forget about Jean-Paul Riopelle..?

    In 1959 he began a relationship with the American painter Joan Mitchell. Living together throughout the 1960s, they kept separate homes and studios near Giverny, where Monet had lived. They influenced one another greatly, as much intellectually as artistically, but their relationship was a stormy one, fueled by alcohol. The relationship ended in 1979. His 1992 painting Hommage à Rosa Luxemburg is Riopelle’s tribute to Mitchell, who died that year, and is regarded as a high point of his later work.

    Here is a good example of his work:


    Yves Lalonde

  • User Gravatar George
    January 9th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    some great examples of abstract painting here, really good to see joan mitchell in there – she needs more exposure

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