Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Andy Williams: An American Legend
Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)

Still Life

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Still Life
signed with initials and dated 'RD 57' (lower right); signed again, titled and dated 'R DIEBENKORN STILL LIFE 1957' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
18 1/8 x 20 in. (46 x 50.8 cm.)
Painted in 1957.
Poindexter Gallery, New York
Mr. and Mrs. Alan H. Temple, acquired from the above in 1958
Private collection, Connecticut, acquired from the above in 1986
Martha Parrish & James Reinish, Inc., New York
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
Private collection, acquired from the above in 2005
Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, 13 May 2010, lot 135
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
"Figurative Painters in California," Arts, December 1957, p.26 (illustrated).
G. Nordland, "Art: Bay Area Painters," Frontier, January 1958, no. 20.
Oakland Museum of California, Contemporary Bay Area Figurative Painting, September 1957, p. 18 (illustrated).
New York, Poindexter Gallery, Recent Paintings, February-March 1958, no 15.

Brought to you by

Jennifer Yum
Jennifer Yum

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Richard Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonné under estate number 1221.

Still Life is one of the small studio still-life jewels of the mid-1950s that heralded a new era of Richard Diebenkorn's early work. During this period, the painter became known as one of the preeminent founders of the Bay Area figurative school of painters. Landscapes, still lifes, and figurative work occupied the California artist for the next several decades and by using similar objects, settings, and models he developed his consummate style of structural and chromatic simplicity. The colors that highlight Still Life and many other works of the period - intense sunlit blues, rich greens and vibrant yellows - are those of the California landscape. The strength and elegance of works such as Still Life lie in Diebenkorn's gift for creating shape and form with sensuously drawn line. The thick white neck and shoulder of the wine bottle, though bordering on abstraction, are nonetheless clearly delineated from the heavily impastoed background and create the central and most prominent form in the collection of objects. A brilliant blue swish of paint serves as the reflected shadow of sharply pointed scissors. A lumpy orange casts its own salmon pink shadow and threatens to roll off a precariously tilted table worthy of Cézanne or Manet. The table itself shines white in the brilliant California sun that is pouring in from a window just out of the frame. The composition, though a still life, borders on the abstract and, with thick, heavy, and visible brushstrokes, also distinctively trumpets its two-dimensional status as a work on canvas.
Richard Diebenkorn was brought up in San Francisco and returned to his native California after serving in the Marine Corps during World War II. Upon his return, he experimented with the abstractions of the New York School. Finding himself limited by the purely gestural practice of Abstract Expressionism, Diebenkorn uncovered his own unique style when he returned to figuration-landscapes, indoor scenes of people, and renderings of simple household objects such as those in Still Life. Diebenkorn's works of this period are both referential and abstract. The light, color, and rhythm of northern California become the subtext of the abundant and handsomely painted compositions. Most importantly, with these works Diebenkorn moves further into the medium of painting and further into working through the various qualities of the paint itself. The representational images of a wine bottle, a knife, scissors, and fruit that seem to naturally take shape atop the horizontal passages and diagonal swishes of paint are those that helped launch the Bay Area figurative school.

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