Hard edge painting is an approach to abstract painting that became widespread in the 1960s and is characterized by areas of flat colour with sharp, clear (or ‘hard’) edges

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  • Frank Stella, 'Hyena Stomp' 1962
    Frank Stella
    Hyena Stomp 1962
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1956 x 1956 mm
    frame: 1982 x 1981 x 91 mm
    Purchased 1965© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2002
  • Ellsworth Kelly, 'Broadway' 1958
    Ellsworth Kelly
    Broadway 1958
    Oil on canvas
    support: 1982 x 1767 x 28 mm
    Presented by E.J. Power through the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962© Ellsworth Kelly
  • Alexander Liberman, 'Andromeda' 1962
    Alexander Liberman
    Andromeda 1962
    Acrylic on canvas
    support, circular: 1650 x 1650 x 40 mm
    Presented by the Montargent Foundation 1964© The Alexander Liberman Trust

The term ‘hard-edge painting’ was coined by Californian critic Jules Langster in 1959. He used it to describe the work of those abstract painters, particularly on the West Coast of America, who reacted to the more painterly or gestural forms of abstract expressionism by adopting a consciously impersonal approach to paint application. Their paintings were made up of monochromatic fields of clean-edged colour which reinforced the flatness of the picture surface.

This style of hard-edged geometric abstraction refers back to the work of Piet Mondrian and Josef Albers. It can be seen as a subdivision of post-painterly abstraction, which in turn emerged from colour field painting.

Artists associated with hard edge painting include Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, William T. Williams and Sam Gilliam.