The extraordinary artistic movement known as American Color Field Painting both continued and challenged prior esthetic traditions. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the 1960s, this movement influenced the entire world of art.
American Color Field Painting was a combination of shared revolutionary techniques and unique individual solutions to the traditional problems and considerations of artistic expression. This new type of art reevaluated traditional pictorial elements including naturalistic perspective, color use, the function of line and shape, and the role of formatting.
Although individual Color Field painters developed distinct modes of expression, they shared a common emphasis on color as a central aspect of painting. They also shared a rejection of the contemporary focus on the conscious social and political responsibilities of art. Their love of materials and their joyous and strenuous endeavors to redefine the boundaries of art are among their exceptional contributions to the ongoing evolution of modern aesthetic values.
Four of the major legacies of the Color Field Painters were an emphasis on the infinite potential for variations in light and color; the practice of creating multiple interpretations, known as a series, on a single theme; the relentless pursuit of the dual identity of art as both illusion and reality; and the use of landscape elements. These legacies were an extension of the practices begun by the Impressionists almost a century before.
The Impressionistic emphasis on distinct patches of solid color was carried to an extreme by Color Field painters like Kenneth Noland who created concentric rings of color in his "target" series. The scientific approach to color that was prominent in the 19th century asserted that a pure color placed next to another color will result in a more dramatic optical effect than colors that have been muted through traditional shading and rendering. Like many of the innovative Impressionists, the American Color Field painters sought to investigate the phenomenon of color contrasts in a deep and intuitive way. Their contributions helped to pave the way for a free-flowing approach to painting that focuses on a single aesthetic element rather than trying to duplicate the visual world around us.