The abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning once famously said, “Flesh is the reason oil paint was developed.” So, what about acrylic paint? Just as the development of oil paint in the early fifteenth century changed the way that artists painted the human figure, the development of acrylic paint in the mid-twentieth century radically changed the way that paintings could be made.

No longer tied to the figure, or to realistic visions of the world, many of the artists who first used acrylic paint rejected centuries-old traditions and seized the opportunity to create bold and colorful abstract works that exploited the new ...

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