Clyfford Still (November 30, 1904 - June 23, 1980) was an American painter, and one of the leading figures of Abstract Expressionism.
Clyfford Still was a leader in the first generation of Abstract Expressionists who developed a new, powerful approach to painting in the years immediately following World War II. Still's contemporaries included Philip Guston, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko. Though the styles and approaches of these artists varied considerably, Abstract Expressionism is marked by abstract forms, expressive brushwork, and monumental scale, all of which were used to convey universal themes about creation, life, struggle, and death (the human condition), themes that took on a considerable relevance during and after World War II. Described by many as the most anti-traditional of the Abstract Expressionists, Still is credited with laying the groundwork for the movement. Still's shift from representational painting to abstraction occurred between 1938 and 1942, earlier than his colleagues, who continued to paint in figurative-surrealist styles well into the 1940s.
Still was born in 1904 in Grandin, North Dakota and spent his childhood in Spokane, Washington and Bow Island in southern Alberta, Canada. Although Abstract Expressionism is identified as a New York movement, Still's formative works were created during various teaching posts on the West Coast, first in Washington State at Washington State University (1935-41). His work of this period is marked by an expressive figurative style used in depictions of the people, buildings, tools and machinery characteristic of farm life. By the late 1930s, he began to simplify his forms as he moved from representational painting toward abstraction. In 1941 Still relocated to the San Francisco Bay area where, following work in various war industries, he became a highly influential professor at the California School of Fine Arts and what is now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. He taught there from 1946-1950 (with a break in the summer of 1948 when he returned to New York). It was during this time when Still broke through to his mature style. Still also taught at Virginia Commonwealth University from 1943-45.