Sundays with Clyfford Still: Breaking the Cage (15)

Welcome to Sundays With Clyfford Still. I’m your host, M.K. Hajdin.

This is number 15 in the series. You can read the other posts here.

This week we go back to the early days of Clyfford Still, before his paintings progressed into complete abstraction.

Haunting images from Clyfford Still

Untitled Still from 1936. Photo: Tiffany Weber

A woman old before her time, a death’s head surfacing beneath her skin.  A gaunt male figure is cradled on her lap, almost in a nursing position, but he seems too weary to take any nourishment and she is too empty to provide it. These starveling figures are eerily prophetic in the light of the concentration-camp images that would shock the world only ten years after this picture was painted.

Artists learn how to do art by reproducing what they see around them in a realistic manner.  Once the techniques are mastered, many artists go on to use the techniques that they learned to interpret reality more imaginatively.  Clyfford Still began on this path trod by so many others, but his originality soon surfaced, and drove him to be one of the first artists who abandoned reality altogether and plunged into complete abstraction.   But what drove that process?

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