“Lost Generation” Abstract Expressionist Alan Fenton

Transitional Cape | Alan Fenton

Born on July 29, 1927, in Cleveland, Ohio, Alan Fenton was a middle child among three siblings. Growing up during the Depression in the rough Kinsman area, Fenton’s childhood was far from ordinary. He grew up alongside the likes of Jackie Presser, who later became a notable teamster and mob boss.

Fenton’s early life, however, was marked by an inclination towards art. Despite being a poor student, he had a knack for drawing and spent most of his time doing so. Unfortunately, his teachers, failing to recognize his talent, reprimanded him for his left-handedness, causing a tremor in his hand in the later years.

Education and Training

Alan Fenton’s career as an artist started when he attended Pratt Institute after a brief stint in the merchant marines and a boxing career in Florida. Here, he majored in Fine Arts and received private lessons from Jack Tworkov and Adolph Gottlieb, both of whom remained lifelong friends and mentors.

Fenton was a strong advocate for classical training, a principle that he drilled into his art students. He insisted on the importance of drawing as a prerequisite for painting, which was evident in his spontaneous sketch of Barney for his son, drawn with mere crayon strokes on a napkin.

Artistic Style and Influences

Fenton’s art is largely classified as “Lost Generation” Abstract Expressionism. His work, often infused with non-objective imagery, resonates with the styles of the New York School and Color Field Painting. Fenton’s style evolved over the years, moving from expressionistic brush strokes into color field lines and squares.

His art was heavily influenced by Taoist, existentialist, and absurdist philosophies, which lent a paradoxical nature to his work. For Fenton, life was about the simultaneous existence of everything and nothing, a concept that he beautifully portrayed in his art.

Career Highlights and Achievements

Alan Fenton’s career took a significant turn when he was invited by Kyle Morris to participate in a group show of the New York School in 1959. Shortly after, he was introduced to Vincent Melzac, owner of “The Vincent Melzac Collection of American Art.” By 1960, Fenton’s work was included in the Melzac Collection, positioning him among the likes of Willem de Kooning, Kenneth Noland, Morris Louis, Franz Kline, and Jackson Pollack.

Throughout the ’60s, Fenton had group exhibitions in various cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, and Connecticut. His one-man exhibition at the Pace Gallery and Stratford, CT, received much acclaim.

In the ’70s, Fenton embarked on his mature work, the “transition series,” which were Asian-inspired landscapes of split two-color flat works. This period of his work culminated in a solo exhibition, “Washes and Drawings,” which traveled to various museums.

Fenton’s work has been reviewed in numerous publications such as Art News, Arts Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times, the New York Post, the Village Voice, and Art International. He even found mention in reference books like Who’s Who: In The World, In America, In the East, In Arts and Antiques and In American Art.


Alan Fenton passed away on January 1, 2000. Despite his demise, his work continues to inspire many in the art world. His art, which was a reflection of his life and philosophy, remains a testament to his talent and creativity. His legacy as an artist, teacher, and influencer lives on, forever etched in the pages of art history.

Curated by Jennifer