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Andy Warhol, Big Torn Campbellʼs Soup Can (Vegetable Beef), 1962, Kunsthaus Zürich, © Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / 2019 ProLitteris, Zurich
Picasso, Grand nu, 1964
Pablo Picasso, Grand nu (Big Nude), 1964, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1969, © Succession Picasso / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Jackson Pollock , Number 21, 1951, Kunsthaus Zürich, Geschenk des Holenia Trust im Andenken an Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1988, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / 2019 ProLitteris, Zurich
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Francis Bacon, Three studies of the Male Back, Triptych, 1970, Kunsthaus Zürich, Vereinigung Zürcher Kunstfreunde, 1982, © Estate of Francis Bacon. All rights reserved / 2019, ProLitteris, Zurich
Twombly, Achilles, 1962
Cy Twombly, Vengeance of Achilles, 1962, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1987, © Cy Twombly Foundation
Hamilton, Interior 1, 1964
Richard Hamilton, Interior I, 1964, Kunsthaus Zürich, legs Erna and Curt Burgauer, 2002, © R. Hamilton. All Rights Reserved / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich
Rothko, Untitled, 1963
Mark Rothko, Untitled (White, Blacks, Grays on Maroon), 1963, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1971, © 1998 Kate Rothko Prizel & Christopher Rothko / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Georg Baselitz, Nachtessen in Dresden (Supper in Dresden), 1983, Kunsthaus Zürich, © 2019 Georg Baselitz
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Joseph Beuys, Olivestone, 1984, Kunsthaus Zürich, Donated by Baronessa Lucrezia De Domizio Durini in memory of the deep friendship and close collaboration which she and her husban Barone Giuseppe Durini had enjoyed with Joseph Beuys, 1992, © 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich
Johns, Zone, 1962
Jasper Johns, Zone, 1962, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1973, © 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich
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Bruce Nauman, Model for Tunnel. Square to Triangle, 1981, Kunsthaus Zürich, 1998, © Bruce Nauman / 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich

In the 1940s and 1950s, abstraction in the US was a radically new form characterised by subjectivity and expressiveness. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, an emigrant from the Netherlands, sought to use paint in a more spontaneous and emotional fashion; they found their solutions in the intuitive techniques of European Surrealism, where the gestural painting process was supposed to give free rein to the artist’s inner imaginings. The result was the largely uncontrolled application of paint that was termed Action Painting.

In the 1950s, artists such as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman constrained the impulsiveness of Action Painting within their ‘colour fields’, but retained the emotional character of Abstract Expressionism. In their works, areas of colour combine in stark contrasts or complementary interplay. Rothko wanted to use the impact of colour fields to engage the viewer’s sensibilities, while Newman was more interested in a quest for absolute beauty and the sublime.

Meanwhile in Paris, which had held that position for the preceding century and a half, abstract movements came to the fore in the shape of the ‘informel’. Yet figurative art in Europe was by no means a spent force, thanks in particular to Pablo Picasso and—notably through his work as a sculptor—Alberto Giacometti. Francis Bacon (1909–1992), an Irish born British painter working in London, kept the theme of the human image going, producing radically new paintings of violently contorted figures seemingly trapped within cagelike structures.

The Collection

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Discover the most important paintings, sculptures, installations and graphic works from the Kunsthaus in our online collection. The selection is being continually expanded and complemented by the latest scientific findings. With the generous support of the Federal Office of Culture (FOC).