But artists couldnt conceive of making conventional art.
Haunted by memories of war and confronting a world in ruins, they threw down their brushes and painted with their feet, slit their canvases with razors and burned them with acid.
Some shot paint from cannons and guns, others used torches.
In the words of Spanish painter Antoni Tapies, Each canvas was a battlefield, on which the wounds were to multiply over and over again, to infinity.
The galleries look like a war zone at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, where the exhibit Destroy the Picture: Painting the Void, 1949-1962 gathers torn, scorched and bullet-riddled works by Tapies and two dozen others created in the aftermath of World War II.
Many of them, including French painter Jean Fautrier, who lived near the Nazi torture camps in France, experienced the war firsthand.
Canvas doubles as skin and paint as blood