All-over painting refers to the non-differential treatment of the surface of a work of two-dimensional art, for instance a painting. This concept is most popularly thought of as emerging in relation to the so-called “drip” paintings of Jackson Pollock and the “automatic writing” or “abstract calligraphy” of Mark Tobey in the 1950s, though the applicability of the term all-over painting would be wider than that. “All-over painting” is not a formal style of painting and the term does not represent an “art movement.” Some painting under the heading color field painting displays the “all-over” painting style. Such a painting would fail to treat the top, for instance, differently from the bottom; the left than the right. Uniform treatment of all sections of the surface are the hallmark of all-over painting. All-over paintings would lack a dominant point of interest, or any indication of which way is “up.” Some paintings by Cy Twombly have had this term applied to them.
Clement Greenberg cited Janet Sobel’s as the first instance of all-over painting he had seen.
The all-over is a practice emerged in painting to 1948, which is to distribute more or less uniform pictorial elements across the surface the table; this thus seems to extend beyond the edges, which eliminates the problem of the field.
Each brushstroke cancels the previous one and its relationship with the surface of the background. This technique was invented by Janet Sobel (1894–1968), an American painter of Ukrainian origin. Jackson Pollock saw his work exhibited in 1944 at the Art of This Century gallery, and was inspired by it to create his own drippings, in 1945. With his way, which was to paint a canvas spread on the ground, he could never see the composition in a global way. Therefore, the only way to restore unity was for him to spread paint everywhere, evenly. In his case, he used sticks and industrial paint, which he spread out by broad, but controlled gestures. The result is pure abstraction in the pictorial space.
There are several types of All-over:
the repetitive – the same form is repeated – as in the painters Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, Willem de Kooning, Claude Viallat or Louis Cane;
one in which the part is self-similar to the whole, for example at Jackson Pollock or Larry Poons.
Clement Greenberg bases the tilting of easel painting on the introduction of all-over painting in his work Art and Culture. Critical essays, published in 1961: he thus defines the crisis in the easel painting.
By painting on the ground a painting without edges or center, Pollock borrows this revolutionary design from the Water Lilies by Claude Monet, a series of impressionist canvases.
In Andelot in the mountains and in the rest of the franche Comté, the artist Marcel Barbeau, signatory of Refus Global, is reputed to be the first painter to have practiced this technique which is today claimed in France by Dominique De Beir.