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Barnett Newman (American, 1905–1970). Vir Heroicus Sublimis. 1950–51. Oil on canvas, 7' 11 3/8" x 17' 9 1/4" (242.2 x 541.7 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller, 1969. © 2010 The Barnett Newman Foundation, New York/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

By the end of the 1940s, most of the Abstract Expressionist painters were working on canvases that were taller and/or wider than a human being, that is, on a large scale. Large-scale Abstract Expressionist paintings envelop the viewer and saturate his or her field of vision. Besides radically changing the relationship between viewer and painting, large-scale Abstract Expressionist canvases served as literal announcements of the grandeur of their makers' ambitions.

Murals had been created for centuries, but such historically grand-scale works were designed to tell a story, using recognizable figures. Rather than telling a particular narrative, the large-scale canvases of Abstract Expressionism often vibrate with creative energy and trigger feelings, emotions, or sensations in those viewing them.

Bradley Walker Tomlin (American, 1899–1953). Number 20. 1949. Oil on canvas, 7' 2" x 6' 8 1/4" (218.5 x 203.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Philip Johnson, 1952

By the end of the 1940s, most of the Abstract Expressionist painters were working on canvases that were taller and/or wider than a human being, that is, on a large scale. Large-scale Abstract Expressionist paintings envelop the viewer and saturate his or her field of vision. Besides radically changing the relationship between viewer and painting, large-scale Abstract Expressionist canvases served as literal announcements of the grandeur of their makers' ambitions.

Murals had been created for centuries, but such historically grand-scale works were designed to tell a story, using recognizable figures. Rather than telling a particular narrative, the large-scale canvases of Abstract Expressionism often vibrate with creative energy and trigger feelings, emotions, or sensations in those viewing them.

Joan Mitchell (American, 1925–1992). Ladybug. 1957. Oil on canvas, 6' 5 7/8" x 9' (197.9 x 274 cm). The Museum of Modern Art. Purchase, 1961. © Estate of Joan Mitchell

By the end of the 1940s, most of the Abstract Expressionist painters were working on canvases that were taller and/or wider than a human being, that is, on a large scale. Large-scale Abstract Expressionist paintings envelop the viewer and saturate his or her field of vision. Besides radically changing the relationship between viewer and painting, large-scale Abstract Expressionist canvases served as literal announcements of the grandeur of their makers' ambitions.

Murals had been created for centuries, but such historically grand-scale works were designed to tell a story, using recognizable figures. Rather than telling a particular narrative, the large-scale canvases of Abstract Expressionism often vibrate with creative energy and trigger feelings, emotions, or sensations in those viewing them.