Glossary

What is Hard-Edge Painting?

Hard-edge painting is a style of abstract painting that emerged in the 1950s and 1960s, associated with the larger movement of geometric abstraction. It is characterized by the use of sharply defined, precise, and clean-edged forms or areas of color that are separated by distinct boundaries. The edges between the colors are often crisp and uninterrupted, creating a clear contrast between different shapes and colors within the composition.


Artists who are commonly associated with hard-edge painting include Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, and Al Held. They sought to create a sense of order, simplicity, and optical intensity through their work. Many of them were influenced by earlier movements such as Suprematism and Constructivism, as well as the color field painting of Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman.


Hard-edge painters often employed bold, flat colors and simple geometric shapes, such as squares, rectangles, triangles, or circles. The emphasis was on the purity and clarity of the colors and forms rather than representing recognizable objects or figures. The paintings often had a flat and smooth surface, achieved through techniques like masking or using tape to create sharp edges.


Hard-edge painting played a significant role in the development of abstract art, particularly in the exploration of color relationships, spatial organization, and the interaction between form and perception. It remains influential in contemporary art and continues to inspire artists exploring geometric abstraction.


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