Richard Diebenkorn

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Richard Diebenkorn was a renowned twentieth century American painter. Some of his early works belonged to abstract expressionists. During the mid-twentieth century the Bay Area Figurative Movement emerged which also impacted his work. One of his monumental works Ocean Park paintings earned him critical acclaim and overnight fame.

Born on April 22, 1922 in Portland, Oregon, Richard Clifford Diebenkorn Jr. was raised in San Francisco, California. He began to draw at a very early age and continued his passion for drawing all through his life. He received his higher education from Stanford University where he was trained by mentors who excelled in various art forms. One of his trainers was muralist Victor Arnautoff who taught him oil painting and classical formal discipline. Edward Hopper’s artwork was introduced by Arnautoff to him and the influence of Hopper’s work is palpable in Diebenkorn’s paintings.

He was drafted into Marine Corps during the Second World War, where he served for two years. He traveled across United States, moving from city to city, working in several fields of his interest. He developed his signature style of abstract expressionist painting. Post World War II the New York School of art usurped the position of the hub of art from the School of Paris. Diebenkorn joined the California School of Fine Arts as student in 1946. The following year he was offered a place in the Arts Faculty of the institute which he accepted and remained with CSFA for the next three years. Clyfford Still, Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky made a huge impact on his work.

Diebenkorn continued to produce abstract expressionist work which earned him spot as a leading artist in the west coast. He also attended a Fine Arts program at the University of New Mexico. By the mid-twentieth century he made a name for himself by becoming one of the most respected figurative painters. During mid 1960s, Richard travelled across Europe to see the masterpieces of his predecessors first hand. Upon his return, he was offered the professorship at UCLA in Santa Monica which he accepted. He owned a small studio where he moved in and painted some great pieces in expressionist style. In the years to come he would begin his Ocean Park series. He started it in 1967 and prolifically produced nearly 135 paintings for the next 18 years. The paintings bore influence of the aerial landscape, a clear view from studio.

In addition to that he made six etchings for the “Poems of W. B. Yeats”, printed by the Arion Press. The series was based on the selection of Helen Vendler. In 1948, the very first exhibition of Diebenkorn’s work took place at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Albright–Knox Art Gallery organized a major retrospective of his work. The show toured in several cities including, Washington, D.C., Oakland, Cincinnati and Los Angeles. The Museum of Modern Art, New York showcased his work on paper which was selected by John Elderfield. The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and the Corcoran Gallery of Art presented Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park series curated by Sarah C. Bancroft, in 2012.

Currently Diebenkorn’s work is being housed at Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, Baltimore Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Los Angeles County Museum of Art and more. On March 30, 1993, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema, claimed his life.

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