Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)

Untitled #19

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Untitled #19
signed with initials and dated 'RD90' (lower right)
wax crayon, graphite, synthetic polymer, gouache and paper collage on paper backed with linen
23¼ x 18 in. (59.1 x 45.7 cm.)
Executed in 1990.
Knoedler & Company, New York
Private collection, New Jersey
Artemis, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York
San Francisco, Campbell-Thiebaud Gallery, Thirty Years on Paper: Richard Diebenkorn and Wayne Thiebaud, April-May 1991.
New York, Knoedler & Company, New Work, November 1991, no. 11 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

The present work will be included in the forthcoming Richard Diebenkorn Catalogue raisonné under number RD 2431.

Richard Diebenkorn's brilliantly subtle Untitled #19 is a remarkable work that exemplifies Diebenkorn's greatest strengths as a colorist and a draughtsman. Untitled #19 was created after Diebenkorn moved from Santa Monica in 1988 and relocated to rural Northern California, near Healdsburg. Although Diebenkorn often shifted styles when moving to new locations, Untitled #19 maintains the artist's recognizable Ocean Park style.

The Ocean Park series synthesizes Diebenkorn's earlier experiments in abstraction and his decade long career in figuration. The series encompasses both the themes and visual language of two distinctly opposing styles. As Jack Flam states, "As [Diebenkorn] himself remarked, moving back and forth between abstraction and representation was not simply a matter of changing styles or modes, but the result of profound and often painful reflections about the very nature of painting. The wide range of his imagery since the beginning of his careerand the strength with which he has dealt with all of these different modes of picture-making, bear witness to the highly speculative, and probing, nature of his engagement with painting." (J. Flam, Richard Diebenkorn: TheOcean Park Paintings, New York, 1992, p. 30).

After relocating to Healdsburg, Diebenkorn shifted from his accustomed canvases to more intimately scaled works on paper. These works on paper are not to be thought of as studies for canvases; Diebenkorn considered his works on paper as unique works. Diebenkorn reinforced the importance of the works on paper when he said "Paper, I find, is something else, lending itself to the different scale of the small size. It is almost as though if I can call my work a large drawing instead of a small canvas, it becomes possible." (F. Gettings, Drawings 1974-84, exh. cat., Washington, D.C, 1984, p. 254).

Diebenkorn forces the viewer to read and interpret the subtle clues of abstraction. Despite what may initially appear to be rigid geometry in Untitled #19, he actually uses line to provide a visual system of order to illustrate depth. As Richard Newlin interprets from the drawings, "Nature is transformed into art by being envisioned in symbolic forms, which operate within the conditions of the medium by analogy or equivalence to the natural world." (R. Newlin, Richard Diebenkorn: Works on Paper, Houston, 1987. p.10). The grey and black lines present a framework that not only mimic the work's shape but also suggest a perspective as if seen through a window or architectural frame.

The renowned artists' - Matisse and Diebenkorn - led seemingly parallel careers, shifting their work between periods of abstraction and figuration. Diebenkorn was directly exposed to Matisse's work through various exhibitions and retrospectives. Matisse's Open Window, Collioure, 1914 has an obvious correlation to Diebenkorn's Ocean Park paintings. Both artists often use abstraction to illustrate a view from an interior space or of architecture by using rigid and obscure geometric forms. However, Diebenkorn's work also includes colors inspired by Santa Monica and later Healdsburg's rural scenery to enliven this geometry and to represent the idyllic landscape of the Ocean Park area.

This work on paper embodies Diebenkorn's interest in the abstract. The combination of layers of whispery cool color inspired by nature within a maze of rectilinear frames express Diebenkorn's interest in the marriage of abstraction and empirical observation. Although he had success in virtually every genre of art whether it was abstraction or figuration, Diebenkorn was continually willing to introduce, leave behind or reinvent his themes for the greater good.

Today the Ocean Park paintings and their derivations are Diebenkorn's most well-recognized and highly praised works. The New York Times said in 1976 with the opening of his retrospective, "One of the most majestic pictorial achievements of the second half of this century, in this country or anywhere else, is the 'Ocean Park' series of paintings by Richard Diebenkorn." (G. Nordland, Richard Diebenkorn, New York, 1987, p. 187). Untitled #19 is a prime example of a truly exemplary series of works that extend from the Ocean Park series and illuminate the artist's talents for producing rigorous works of inspiring beauty.

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