Art Term

Action painters

The term action painters is applied to artists working from the 1940s until the early 1960s whose approach to painting emphasized the physical act of painting as an essential part of the finished work

Jackson Pollock, ‘Number 23’ 1948
Jackson Pollock
Number 23 1948
© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019

Their process, involved splashing, using gestural brushstrokes and dripping paint onto canvas rather than carefully applying it. The term 'action painting' was coined by Harold Rosenberg in his groundbreaking article The American Action Painters published in ARTnews in December 1952.

Rosenberg was referring to artists such as Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock.

Related Terms and Concepts

Explore this term

  • Read

    Jackson Pollock: 5 Things

    A new exhibition at Tate Liverpool looks afresh at the pioneering and iconic American artist Jackson Pollock. Scrutinising some of ...

  • Look Closer

    Jackson Pollock: Separating Man from Myth

    Mike Pinnington

    Jackson Pollock's reputation – salacious untruths in tow – often precedes him. With an exhibition at Tate Liverpool exploring the blind ...

Selected artists in the collection

Selected artworks in the collection

Action Painters at Tate

  • Tate Modern


    Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective

    10 Feb – 3 May 2010
    Exhibition celebrating the extraordinary life and work of Arshile Gorky at Tate Modern 10 February to 3 May 2010
  • Tate Liverpool


    Niki de Saint Phalle

    1 Feb – 5 May 2008
    Niki de Saint Phalle; past exhibition at Tate Liverpool
  • Tate Liverpool


    Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots

    30 Jun – 18 Oct 2015
    Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots presents the first exhibition in more than three decades of Pollock’s paintings made between 1951 ...