(from Fr., tache: ‘spot’ or ‘blotch’).
A type of abstract painting popular in the late 1940s and 1950s characterized by the use of irregular dabs or splotches of colour. The term was first used in this sense in about 1951 and was given wide currency by the French critic Michel Tapié in his book Un art autre (1952). In its intuitive, spontaneous approach, Tachisme had affinities with Abstract Expressionism (although it initially developed independently of it), and the term is often used as a generic label for any European painting of the time that parallels the American movement. However, Tachisme was primarily a French phenomenon (Jean Fautrier, Georges Mathieu, and the German-born but Paris-based Wols were among the leading exponents), and Tachiste paintings are characteristically more suave, sensual, and concerned with beautiful handling (belle facture) than the work of the Abstract Expressionists, which can be aggressively raw in comparison. The terms abstraction lyrique (lyrical abstraction), Art Autre (other art), and Art Informel (art without form) are sometimes used synonymously with Tachisme, although certain critics use them to convey different nuances, sometimes corresponding with niceties of theory rather than with observable differences in practice. It seems reasonable, however, to regard Tachisme as one aspect of the broader notion of Art Informel. To add to the confusion of terminology, the word tachisme was used differently in the 19th century, being applied pejoratively to the Impressionists and the Macchiaioli.