Artist biography

American painter and printmaker. He was most widely recognised for his large-scale, luminous abstractions known as the Ocean Park paintings. Diebenkorn was brought up in San Francisco. Diebenkorn's study was interrupted by service in the Marine Corps during World War II.

In 1946 Diebenkorn returned to California to continue his education. His abstract paintings of this period were stylistically rooted in the New York school; they were characterised by linear planes, which gave the impression of aerial landscape views, and by a fluid line that defined a type of biomorphic abstraction.

The small studio still-lifes of 1955–6, such as Still-life with Orange Peel (1955), signalled a new era. Diebenkorn became known as one of the founders of the Bay Area figurative school. The new colours – intense sunlit blues, greens and yellows – were those of the California landscape.

From that time, in a series of more than 140 paintings entitled Ocean Park, Diebenkorn gave priority to formal concerns in his monumental abstract compositions. Eliminating the figure but retaining allusions to the landscape, he created paintings distinguished by geometric scaffolding visibly aligned and re-aligned, overlaid with glazes of luminescent colour. In 1988 he left Santa Monica to return to the Bay Area. After a heart attack in 1989, followed by a series of operations and illnesses, he gave up working on his characteristically large canvases to concentrate on a series of gouache drawings and two beautifully refined etchings in 1991 and 1992.

Richard Diebenkorn: Paintings and Drawings, 1943–1976 (exh. cat. by R. Buck and others, Buffalo, NY, Albright--Knox A.G., 1976)
M. Stevens: Richard Diebenkorn: Etchings and Drypoints, 1949–1980 (Houston, 1981) [cat. rais., 1949–80 and extensive technical inf.]
D. Ashton: Richard Diebenkorn: Small Paintings from Ocean Park (Houston, 1985)
R. Newlin: Richard Diebenkorn: Works on Paper (Houston, 1987)
G. Nordland: Richard Diebenkorn (New York, 1987)
Richard Diebenkorn (exh. cat., ed. P. Bonaventura and C. Lampert; London, Whitechapel A.G., 1991)
A. Gopnik: ‘The Art World, Diebenkorn Redux', New Yorker (24 May 1993), pp. 97–100
T. Hilton: ‘Some Divine Inkling …', The Guardian (1 April 1993)
Obituary, The Times (1 April 1993)


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