Art historical writings
by Franck Gribling

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1969

Clifford Still en A.V.Tack . Op zoek naar het absolute.
p.232 - 234 , Miscellanea , I.Q.Van Regteren Altena , Amsterdam , 1969.

english summary

In American Abstract-Expressionism , Clyfford Still occupies a unique position. His style , as it developped in the 40's , cannot simply be attributed to the European avant-garde influences which were generally active in the New York School . In fact , later on Still expressly dissociated himself from his contemporaries , from whom he was also distinguished by his personal early history . The true background of his art is extremely obscure , not least by Still's own doing . The critics have repeatedly associated Still's work with impressions of nature gathered in the Far West of the United States , where the artist came to maturity in the isolation of an academic career .His art has also been connected with the idea of the Sublime , as developped in Romanticism . Recently , Still categorically denied this type of associaton . That this denial did not hold water appears however , from previously published statements by the artist . His original interpretation bore the distinct stamp of nature mysticism . Still contemptuously dismissed any enquiries into his antecedents , especally attempts to bring him into contact with the European tradition , which he had rejected in principle as early as 1924 , according to his own statements . In this context it is important to point out that in the 20's , in anticipation of Still , and on American soil , a form of abstraction deeply penetrated with nature mysticism and oriental ideas had already developed in in the work of A.V. Tack , a now wholly forgotten master , who nevertheless enjoyed some local reputation up to the time of his death in 1947. Though decorative in character , in the manner of Fin-de-siecle Painting , his abstracts show notable affinities in form and spirit with the early work of Clifford Still . In particular , the capricious amoeba-like forms , floating freely in space , are almost identical in Tack's work. It is likely that Still was acquainted with Tack's art, which was permanently on view in the Philips Collection in Washington D.C. , apart from the works which appeared at New York art dealers . Still's typical language of form was not without precedent in Amercan Art. Stil developed a particular form of abstract art with local roots , independently of the European avant-garde tradition.