Morris Louis

  • Born 1912 in Baltimore, MD, USA
  • Died 1962 in Washington, D.C., USA

Morris Louis was one of the foremost proponents of Color Field abstraction, a style more focused on color than gesture. He received a scholarship to study at the Maryland Institute of Fine and Applied Arts in 1929, graduating in 1932. In 1936 he moved to New York, where he attended a workshop by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896–1974). During the Great Depression he worked in the Easel Division of the Federal Art Project (1939–40), then returned to Baltimore in 1940. Although Louis first painted in a figurative, social realist style, after World War II he began to move toward abstraction. In 1948, he began to work with Magna, an acrylic resin paint that he used for the rest of his life. In 1952, Louis moved to Washington, D.C., where he befriended the artist Kenneth Noland (1924–2010). In 1953 Louis had his first solo show and visited the New York studio of Helen Frankenthaler (1928–2011). He was deeply impressed by her soak-stain technique, and his own experiments with paint application resulted in three series of colorful, large-scale paintings: “Veils,” “Unfurled,” and “Stripes.” Louis destroyed most of his Abstract Expressionist paintings from 1955 to 1957.