The Art of Richard Diebenkorn

by Jane Livingston

Other authorsJohn Elderfield (Contributor), Jane Livingston (Contributor), Ruth Fine (Contributor)
Paperback, 1997




Whitney Museum of American Art in association with University of California Press, (1997)


Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) quietly constructed a place for himself in the history of twentieth-century art with his singular vision and intense commitment to the idea and practice of both figuration and abstraction.In this book, which accompanies the Whitney Museum's 1997 Diebenkorn retrospective exhibition, the most comprehensive survey of his work ever held, Diebenkorn emerges as an artist who restored to late modernism the sense of the sublime that seemed to fade with each successive decade after World War II. In the 1940s and early 1950s, he forged an impressive abstract vocabulary - and then suddenly abandoned it in 1955 for a representational mode that encompassed still lifes, landscapes, figures, and interiors. Along with painters David Park and Elmer Bischoff, he established what has come to be known as the Bay Area Figurative School. Twelve years later, in 1967, Diebenkorn moved back into abstraction, embarking on the renowned Ocean Park series of paintings and drawings that he continued to develop until the end of his life.… (more)

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Published to accompany the exhibition "Richard Diebenkorn" at the Whitney Museum of American Art 1997-98, this book provides an insight on the artist's work along with numerous illustrations.

The main essay by Jane Livingston provides a biography of Diebenkorn along with a discussion of his work and its progress over the years, it makes fascinating and informative reading. There are two further essays: "Reality: Digested, Transmitted and Twisted" by Ruth E Fine; and "Leaving Ocean Park" by John Elderfield in which he considers the aesthetic psychology of the Diebenkorn's approach to his work. The essays are illustrated with the pictures appearing on or near the pages on which they are discussed, and include a few examples of the work of other relevant artists.

The book concludes with a "Selected Exhibition History"; "Selected Bibliogaphy"; and a detailed list of "Works in the Exhibition".

The section of plates occupies pages 116 to 259 and portrays many examples from Diebenkorn's realist period and his abstract periods, including a good number of the Ocean Park paintings. There are 216 illustrations in total: 191 in full colour, 25 duotones; the paintings in the plates section are shown one to a page and the majority are shown as large as the page reasonable permits in this very large format book. The standard of reproduction is good, the colours are vibrant, however sometimes the dark areas of the painting are dense and lacking detail.

This is a well designed and produced book, however I have not had the opportunity to compare it with "Richard Diebenkorn" by Gerald Nordland Richard Diebenkorn, which might be worth checking out.
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