Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
Property from the Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson
Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)


Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993)
signed with the artist's initials and dated 'RD 84' (lower left)
gouache, acrylic and wax crayon on joined paper
38 x 26 1/8 in. (96.5 x 66.3 cm.)
Executed in 1984.
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1984
R. Newlin, Richard Diebenkorn: Works on Paper, Houston, 1987, pp. 240-241 (illustrated).
J. Livingston and A. Liguori, eds., Richard Diebenkorn, The Catalogue Raisonné, Volume Four: Catalogue Entries 3762-5197, New Haven and London, 2016, pp. 334, 349 and 432, no. 4565 (illustrated).
New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Richard Diebenkorn: Recent Work, May 1984, p. 6, no. 9 (illustrated).
Stanford University Museum of Art, Twentieth-Century Drawings from the Anderson Collection: Auguste Rodin to Elizabeth Murray, November 1988-February 1989, pp. 15 and 30, no. 33 (illustrated).
Hanover, Dartmouth College, Hood Museum of Art, Minimalism and Post-Minimalism: Drawing Distinctions, October-December 1990, pp. 24-25, no. 4 (illustrated).
Los Angeles, University of Southern California, Fisher Gallery, Richard Diebenkorn: Works on Paper from the Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson Collection, March-April 1993, p. 31, 55, 85 and 89, pl. 7 (illustrated).
Santa Clara, Triton Museum of Art, A Bay Area Connection, November 1995-February 1996, p. 47, no. 22.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Richard Diebenkorn, September 1997-January 1999, pp. 242 and 275, no. 198 (illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, October 2000-January 2001, pp. 331 and 360, no. 66, pl. 197 (illustrated).
Stanford University, Cantor Center for Visual Arts, Richard Diebenkorn: Abstractions on Paper, July-November 2008.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Orange County Museum of Art and Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, September 2011-September 2012, pp. 187 and 248, pl. 106 (illustrated).
Anderson Collection at Stanford University, Salon Style: Collected Marks on Paper, March-August 2018.

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Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan

Lot Essay

Often heralded as one of the foremost painters of his generation, Richard Diebenkorn’s late career saw a turn toward abstraction after a long period dedicated almost exclusively to figuration. Works like Untitled, 1984 find the artist working in his favorite media to produce works of dazzling intensity. Completed while he was in the heyday of his remarkable Ocean Park series, these examples of the artist’s mastery of simple form and line are akin to his larger compositions on canvas. Curator Sarah Bancroft notes, “The drawings and collages Diebenkorn produced during the Ocean Park period run in parallel to his painting pursuits…These intimate works are titled and dated as part of the overall series and share all the concerns of the larger paintings… Made alongside the paintings, they were pinned onto his studio walls and frequently served as a form of productive respite when he was struggling to resolve a larger painting. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the drawings and collages are works of art in their own right, and were not used as studies for larger works.” (S. Bancroft, “Richard Diebenkorn: A Riotous Calm,” Richard Diebenkorn, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2015, p. 35). Approaching his works on paper in a similar mode to his paintings, the finesse and precision becomes undoubtedly clear in these smaller compositions which in turn afford a more intimate perusal of their surfaces.

Untitled, 1984 dispenses with this personal iconography in favor of a more intimate investigation into the nature of Diebenkorn’s surfaces. Employing gouache, acrylic, and crayon on pieces of paper cut and then pasted together, the artist assembles a geometric lattice over a murky, layered ground. Vertical stripes of black and blue bookend the composition of gray and white with hints of various colors underneath. Diebenkorn has seemingly inscribed a triangle and square into the mottled picture plane which lends a structure to the entire work. Clouds of yellow, blue, and even red are visible just under the surface and speak to the artist’s interest in making clear his working methods.

In 1951, the artist flew from Albuquerque to San Francisco and the bird’s-eye view of the desert revealed to him an extreme visual economy. He stated, “The aerial view showed me a rich variety of ways of treating a flat plane—like flattened mud or paint. Forms operating in shallow depth reveal a huge range of possibilities for the painter” (R. Diebenkorn, quoted in Modern Painting and Sculpture Collected by Louise and Joseph Pulitzer, Cambridge, 1958, p. 43). This event inaugurated a period in which he radically changed direction each time new surroundings inspired him. He began to test the boundaries of abstraction when he lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Urbana, Illinois during the early 1950s and in Berkeley, California from 1953 to 1965.

His move to Santa Monica in 1966 proved to be an important event and his new surroundings in the beach community of Ocean Park gave birth to the eponymous series of paintings. Most noteworthy, he took up residence in the former studio of painter Sam Francis. Having previously worked in a small, windowless space, the larger light-filled studio was an awakening for the artist. Although he was not aware of the dramatic effect it would have at the time, Diebenkorn later reminisced about this crucial point in his career, saying, “Maybe someone from the outside observing what I was doing would have known what was about to happen. But I didn’t. I didn’t see the signs. Then, one day, I was thinking about abstract painting again. As soon as I moved into Sam’s space, I did four large canvases—still representation but much flatter. Then, suddenly, I abandoned the figure altogether” (R. Diebenkorn, quoted in S. Bancroft, “A View of Ocean Park,” Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series, exh. cat., Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 2011, p. 15). Out of this revelation came the dynamic and much-lauded Ocean Park series, with which Untitled, 1984 shares many visual and formal traits.

The influence of painters both historical and contemporary can be distinctly felt in Diebenkorn’s work from the 1980s, as he brought his myriad influences together into a finely-honed body of work all his own. As early as the 1940s, long before the Ocean Park series and its kin were formulated, the artist was looking to the works of Paul Cézanne and Piet Mondrian. However, a visit to Moscow in the 1960s brought him in contact with a great number of paintings by Henri Matisse. Upon his return, Diebenkorn started to increasingly highlight the flatness of his canvases. Although still working with figuration, this tipping point looked toward future abstractions like Untitled, 1984. Furthermore, tempered by an Abstract Expressionist approach to composition and working method, Diebenkorn was able to create a hybrid approach all his own. Especially important was the influence of fellow abstract figurative painter Willem de Kooning. The evidence of time seen in de Kooning’s work as reworked lines and over-painted drawings prompted Diebenkorn to play with similar elements. This underlying structure came to greater prominence with the artist’s move to abstraction, and is in full force in the present work.

The Ocean Park paintings exemplify the best of this new vocabulary Diebenkorn developed in his search for a new form of expression between figuration and abstraction. Taking his lead from a previous generation’s masters, the artist used his inspirational surroundings to develop a new expressive language, re-defining the way we look at paintings. He filled the resulting grand canvases with clarity; their expansive fields overflow with minimizing contrasts; broad areas of pigment serenely shimmer. By finding his own unique path, Diebenkorn developed an entirely new visual language, while retaining the traditions of both movements. In the process, he firmly established himself as a master of high modernism.

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