I was asked last night about the origin of the term ‘Abstract Expressionism’. I knew the straightforward answer to the question, that it was first used in 1946 by Robert Coates to describe the work of Hans Hofmann. But I couldn’t answer the second question. Who was Robert Coates ? Peter Mayer, who republished some of his experimental fiction, knew the answer. He was the ballet critic for the New Yorker, a protégé of Gertrude Stein and author of books, now not much read, including The Eater of Darkness (1926) and The Outlaw Years (1930). He described the works of Jackson Pollock as ‘mere unorganized explosions of random energy, and therefore meaningless’.