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Direct, instinctual, dynamic style of painting that involves the spontaneous application of vigorous, sweeping brush strokes and the chance effects of dripping and spilling paint onto the canvas. The term characterizes the work of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Franz Kline. The automatic techniques developed in Europe by the Surrealists in the 1920s and '30s had great influence on U.S. artists, who regarded a picture not merely as a finished product but as a record of the process of its creation. It was a major force in Abstract Expressionism in the 1950s. See alsoautomatism, Tachism.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on action painting, visit Britannica.com.