User:Eric Winesett/diebenkorn

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Richard Clifford Diebenkorn, Jr. (b. April 22 1922, d. March 30, 1993) was a well-known 20th century American painter. Diebenkorn was born in Portland, Oregon; his family moved to San Francisco, California when he was two. In 1940, Diebenkorn entered Stanford University.

At first, he painted and drew in a representational style that was in a large part influenced by Edward Hopper. However, during the late 1940s and early 1950s he lived and worked in various places: New York City, Woodstock, New York, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Urbana, Illinois, Berkeley, California and he developed his own style of abstract expressionist painting. Abstract expressionism had captured worldwide attention having developed in New York during the 1940s. After the Second World War the focus of the art world shifted from the School of Paris to the New York School. In the early 1950s and Diebenkorn adopted abstract expressionism as his vehicle for self-expression, influenced at first by Clyfford Still, Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning. He became a leading abstract expressionist on the west coast.

He lived in Berkeley, California from 1955 to 1966. By the mid-1950s Diebenkorn had become an important figurative painter, in a style that bridged Henri Matisse with abstract expressionism. His later paintings - the Ocean Park series begun in 1967 clearly bridge abstract expressionism, color field painting and lyrical abstraction. Contemporary painting on the West Coast established independence from New York by returning to the figure. Diebenkorn, Elmer Bischoff, David Park, James Weeks, and later, Joan Brown, Manuel Neri, Nathan Oliveira and others all participated in a renaissance of figurative painting, later to be dubbed the Bay Area figurative movement.

In 1965 Diebenkorn was granted a cultural visa to visit and view Henri Matisse paintings in important Soviet museums. When he returned to painting in the Bay Area in mid-1965 his resulting works summed up all that he had learned from his more than a decade as a leading figurative painter.

In 1967 Diebenkorn returned to abstraction, this time in a distinctly personal, geometric style that clearly departed from his abstract expressionist period. His most famous paintings, the "Ocean Park" series, began in 1967 and developed for over twenty-five years, resulting in more than 140 paintings. Based on the aerial landscape and perhaps the view from the window of his studio, these large-scale abstract compositions are named after a community in Santa Monica, California, where Diebenkorn had his studio. He taught at this time at UCLA.

Richard Diebenkorn died in Berkeley on March 30, 1993.

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My version

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) was an American visual artist best known for his Ocean Park series of paintings begun in 1967. Although he started his career as an abstract expressionist, from 1955 to 1967 Diebenkorn gained notoriety as one of several California artists - the so-called Bay Area Figurative school - who turned to representational painting against the prevailing art world trend.

Diebenkorn was born in Portland, Oregon, and moved to northern California with his family as a small child. His father, a businessman, was tolerant of young Diebenkorn's painting hobby, but actual encouragement came from his grandmother, with whom he spent his boyhood summers. She took Diebenkorn to an exhibition of the works of Vincent van Gogh at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. [1]

Diebenkorn entered Stanford University during the second World War and, with military service imminent, he flouted his parents' expectations of a professional career, instead taking classes in art. Paintings from this early period, such as Palo Alto Circle (1943), show the strong influence of Edward Hopper.

Called to duty by the Marines, Diebenkorn transferred briefly to the University of California, Berkeley, eventually ending up in Officer Candidate School in Quantico, Virginia. Although he was no longer a formal art student, it was during this time that Diebenkorn became intimately familiar with several artists and art works that would prove influential throughout his painting career. Diebenkorn and his new wife, Phyllis, took advantage of the proximity of Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and New York City, visiting major art museums and collections on weekends. The Phillips Collection, with its relaxed mansion atmosphere and collection of European and American modernists, was especially important. Diebenkorn has pointed to Matisse's The Studio, Quai St. Michel (1916) as particularly influential.[2] He also became familiar with contemporary painters, including Robert Motherwell and Wiliam Baziotes, through magazine reproductions. [3] It was during this time he made his first experimental forays into abstract painting.

After the war, Diebenkorn entered the California School of Fine Arts (now the San Francisco Art Institute) on the G.I. Bill. He painted as a student of the cubism-influenced David Park for a brief time, then received grant money that allowed him to paint for a year in Woodstock, New York, with the expectation that he would return to the school to teach. However, upon his return in late 1947 (?), he found that the presence of a new faculty member, the abstract expressionist Clyfford Still, was having a dramatic effect on the school.

Diebenkorn had his first one-man exhibition in 1948 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco featuring paintings structured on an abstract grid. By the end of the year Diebenkorn's own work turned toward abstract expressionism, with looser compositions discovered in the painting process; thus began Diebenkorn's first mature work: the Saualito series.[4]

From 1948 to 1955, Diebenkorn continued his abstract expressionist style with increasingly large canvases and color shifts corresponding to his various locations. He painted in Sausalito until 1950, when he enrolled in the graduate program at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, receiving his MFA in 1951. In 1952 he went to teach at the University of illinois in Urbana, then returned to California the following year, settling in Berkeley. Each city was the namesake of a corresponding series of paintings.

In 1955, just as Diebenkorn was being recognized as a significant West Coast abstract expressionist, he turned back to representational imagery. It was a radical move in the art world of the time, but his colleague and former teacher David Park had preceded Diebenkorn by five (?) years. Elmer Bischoff, another colleague from the California School of Fine Arts, had also turned to representation. The three artists, along with their students painting in a similar style, eventually would be called the Bay Area Figurative School, although there was never any formal grouping. (In fact, Diebenkorn discouraged the suggestion of a "movement."[5]


  4. Elderfield 28; 139
  5. Nordland ?


Elderfield, John (1991). "Figure and Field." In RIchard Diebenkorn [exhibition catalog]. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery.

Nordland, Gerald (1987). Richard Diebenkorn. New York: Rizzoli. 

Larsen, Susan (1987). Interview with Richard Diebenkorn, May 1985 and December 1987. Archives of American Art. Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved on 2007-05-25.