Although the term "Abstract Expressionism" is believed to have been first used in a 1919 issue of the German magazine, Der Sturm, and later used in 1926 by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. to describe the works of Wassily Kandinsky, the actual Abstract Expressionism Art Movement is generally accepted as beginning in 1946, just after the end of World War II. Barr, an influential art historian of the day and first director of New York City's Museum of Modern Art, witnessed Abstract Expressionism as it became the first American Art Movement to attain genuine international acclaim. Robert Coates, American writer and long-time art critic for The New Yorker magazine, officially coined the phrase in 1946 when referring to works of Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning.
Abstract Expressionism, centered on a number of artists with a loose affiliation working in New York City, is sometimes called the New York School and, alternatively, Action Painting or Abstract Kinetic Art. It resisted being defined as a specific style, breaking away from previous European painting traditions. As a result, and for the first time ever, the primary focus of the international art world transferred from Paris to New York.
Works created within this movement were known for their large-scale, monumental size, where spontaneity and improvisation were most important and imagery was abstractly applied - even when based upon visual reality. The idea was to convey strong, emotional and highly expressive content. Canvasses were sometimes removed from the easel, placed on the floor and painted on quickly and forcefully. Sometimes paint was simply dripped or thrown at the canvas, as a means of showing strong feelings and emotions. It was believed that this type of painting would release an artist's inner creativity and unconscious mind.
Joan Miro (1893-1983), a Catalan artist who enjoyed a long, fruitful career, was quite active during the Abstract Expressionism Movement. After dabbling in the 1920s with early surrealism and as one of the first artists to experiment with automatic drawing, he had already experimented with the expression of the artist's subconscious mind – which later became a common method in later Abstract Expressionism.
Two of Miro's original pochoir stencil prints, both from 1947, can be found here – "Women and Birds before the Moon" (in five colors) and "Woman and Birds in the Night" (in four colors). Both are printed on cream wove paper and are authenticated by the publisher's inscription, located on the reverse side of the sheet.
Another wonderful example of Abstract Expressionism is the 1958 print "Thirteen Standing Figures" by Henry Moore. This original color lithograph is on handmade wove paper and bears Moore's official watermark.