The original common use refers to the tendency attributed to paintings in Europe during the post-1945 period and as a way of describing several artists (mostly in France) with painters like Wols, Gérard Schneider and Hans Hartung from Germany or Georges Mathieu, etc., whose works related to characteristics of contemporary American abstract expressionism. At the time (late 1940s), Paul Jenkins, Norman Bluhm, Sam Francis, Jules Olitski, Joan Mitchell, Ellsworth Kelly and numerous other American artists were, as well, living and working in Paris and other European cities. With the exception of Kelly, all of those artists developed their versions of painterly abstraction that has been characterized at times as lyrical abstraction, tachisme, color field, Nuagisme and abstract expressionism.
The art movement Abstraction lyrique was born in Paris after the war. At that time, the artistic life in Paris, which had been devastated by the Occupation and Collaboration, resumed with numerous artists exhibited again as soon as the Liberation of Paris in mid-1944. According to the new abstraction forms that characterised some artists, the movement was named by the art critic, Jean José Marchand, and the painter, Georges Mathieu, in 1947. Some art critics also looked at this movement as an attempt to restore the image of artistic Paris, which had held the rank of capital of the arts until the war. Lyrical abstraction also represented a competition between the School of Paris and the new New York School of Abstract Expressionism painting represented above all since 1946 by Jackson Pollock, then Willem de Kooning or Mark Rothko, which were also promoted by the American authorities from the early 1950s.
Lyrical abstraction was opposed not only to the Cubist and Surrealist movements that preceded it, but also to geometric abstraction (or "cold abstraction"). Lyrical abstraction was, in some ways, the first to apply the lessons of Wassily Kandinsky, considered one of the fathers of abstraction. For the artists, lyrical abstraction represented an opening to personal expression.
Finally, in the late 1960s (partially as a response to minimal art, and the dogmatic interpretations by some to Greenbergian and Juddian formalism), many painters re-introduced painterly options into their works and the Whitney Museum and several other museums and institutions at the time formally named and identified the movement and uncompromising return to painterly abstraction as 'lyrical abstraction'.