Gesture and Action National Museum Cardiff

Angel and People (1978), Mali Morris

Angel and People (1978)
Mali Morris
Acrylic on canvas
© Mali Morris. Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum of Wales.

Well You Needn't (2008) Maurice Cockrill (1936-)

Well You Needn't (2008)
Maurice Cockrill (1936-)
Mixed media on canvas
Lent by the Derek Williams Trust

In the years after the Second World War a new type of abstract painting emerged that stressed the importance of the action or gesture of the artist.

In 1952 the critic Harold Rosenberg summarised this movement when he stated:

‘At a certain moment the canvas began to appear to one American painter after another as an arena in which to act… what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.’

Paint was poured, dripped, stained and even thrown at the canvas to create the final composition.

The painting acted as a record of an action as well as a statement of the expressive power of the individual.

As this display shows the scale and confidence of American Abstract Expressionism was a major influence on artists working in Britain.

The idea that a painting can be made by an action, event or process continues to be important to artists working today.

» Back to Art

  • National Museum Cardiff

    National Museum Cardiff

    Discover art, natural history and geology. With a busy programme of exhibitions and events, we have something to amaze everyone, whatever your interest – and admission is free!

  • St Fagans National History Museum

    St Fagans

    St Fagans is one of Europe's foremost open-air museums and Wales's most popular heritage attraction.

  • Big Pit National Coal Museum

    Big Pit

    Big Pit is a real coal mine and one of Britain's leading mining museums. With facilities to educate and entertain all ages, Big Pit is an exciting and informative day out.

  • National Wool Museum

    National Wool Museum

    Located in the historic former Cambrian Mills, the Museum is a special place with a spellbinding story to tell.

  • National Roman Legion Museum

    National Roman Legion Museum

    In AD 75, the Romans built a fortress at Caerleon that would guard the region for over 200 years. Today at the National Roman Legion Museum you can learn what made the Romans a formidable force and how life wouldn't be the same without them.

  • National Slate Museum

    National Slate Museum

    The National Slate Museum offers a day full of enjoyment and education in a dramatically beautiful landscape on the shores of Llyn Padarn.

  • National Waterfront Museum

    National Waterfront Museum

    The National Waterfront Museum at Swansea tells the story of industry and innovation in Wales, now and over the last 300 years.

  • Rhagor: Explore our collections

    Rhagor (Welsh for ‘more’) offers unprecedented access to the amazing stories that lie behind our collections.