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An Illustrated Exhibition Guide to Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy. Finished this Sunday 7th June


Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn RA (1922- 1993)

Happy Friday Friends! How are you?

I wanted to apologise with the lack of posts over last month.  It has been a busy month. Got lots to tell you.

Have you ever entered an exhibition with no clue who the artist is or what background they came from? I found myself that this was the case with Richard Diebenkorn.

I wanted to share my illustrated    guide to Richard Diebenkorn at the Royal Academy. It’s a shame the exhibition is not on for very long. It would have been nice to coincide with the Royal Academy Summer Show.

I want to share   my  experiences at the titular exhibition

I am not the only one who has never heard of him. Diebenkorn  is a famous abstract expressionist that no one has really heard of!

He shies away for the public light and he did not want to be pigeon-holed. In fact, he hated it. Rather than being pigeon-holed as an abstract painter, he integrated figurative  art into his paintings.

The story was Diebenkorn practised life drawing in secret. He would not tell the galleries, in case it affected his catalogue sales. He had many successes as an abstract painter even when it was unfashionable. I believe life drawing is a necessary artistic skill set and it heightens his creativity.

Richard Diebenkorn Albuquerque #4, 1951 Oil on canvas, 128.9 x 116.2 cm Saint Louis Art Museum. Gift of Joseph Pulitzer Jr. Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn, Albuquerque #4, 1951
Oil on canvas, 128.9 x 116.2 cm

Saint Louis Art Museum. Gift of Joseph Pulitzer Jr.
Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

With only three rooms, this is a tiny exhibition! I had the opportunity to listen to the audio guide which enriched my knowledge of Diebenkorn and of his practices. The exhibition is arranged chronologically  from: Early Abstract Works (1950-1956), Figurative and landscape studies and finally his later works  ‘Ocean Park’ series.

This is one of the exhibitions  you go to;  when you are in need of calm, peace and mindfulness. Especially if you live and work in such a  bustling city like London.

Richard Diebenkorn Berkeley #5, 1953 Oil on canvas, 134.6 x 134.6 cm Private collection  Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn, Berkeley #5, 1953
Oil on canvas, 134.6 x 134.6 cm
Private collection

Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Diebenkorn’s work is one of Geometric abstraction until his later years he would incorporate figures into his work. His work are are based on the themes of composition, space and scale. He is also a colourist, with   rich colour palettes that defines each location from New Mexico  to Southern California.

Homages and influences from  the works of: Matisse, Clyfford Still, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline. The proportions and spatial attention are similar to the works to Mondrian .

june sees_albuquerque, new mexico

His Early abstract works consists of the dusty, dry, Arabic sunsets and sun-baked colours of the New Mexico Landscape.

You’ll see the thick black, bold paint strokes. Revealing cracks and textures and unforgiving paint drips  and textures of dry brushing. The colours bleeds into each other, revealing and concealing early decision-making. It is a very honest painting that is in turmoil.  There are  hints of an invisible figure in the painting. Whether this is deliberate or my imagination, I cannot be certain.

Diebenkorns’  sketches from  life drawing classes consisted of  friends, children of friends and model from agencies posed for him.

Richard Diebenkorn, Girl On a Terrace, 1956 Oil on canvas, 179.07 x 166.05 x 2.54 cm Collection Neuberger Museum of Art  Purchase College, State University of New York. Gift of Roy R. Neuberger Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn, Girl On a Terrace, 1956
Oil on canvas, 179.07 x 166.05 x 2.54 cm

Collection Neuberger Museum of Art
Purchase College, State University of New York. Gift of Roy R. Neuberger

Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

His figures in the paintings are ghostly. There are no obvious facial features. Your focal attention is elsewhere but the figure. The ambiguity  of scale and depth  on a flat surface suggests a  complex narrative.

The sketches are organic but at times are blocks of abstraction and expressive nature. It has frantic marks but nearly   no facial details on the models.

The still life paintings are in topical fashion , it is a tribute to Matisse whom  intimately  painted objects as the sole subjects and its surroundings.  There is a fondness in his still life more so than his figure drawings.

Diebenkorn has an attraction to scales and as a heavy smoker, he would be given cigars and cigarillos as gifts. He would paint a miniature ‘Ocean Park’ series on the lids of the  boxes of cigars and cigarellos.

It is the same composition to the large pieces, which is remarkable to resize and decrease an image in size  with such precision and sharp eye.  This is an ode to Mondrian.

Richard Diebenkorn Cityscape #1, 1963 Oil on canvas, 153 x 128.3 cm San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchased with funds from Trustees and friends in memory of Hector Escobosa, Brayton Wilbur, and J.D. Zellerbach Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn, Cityscape #1, 1963
Oil on canvas, 153 x 128.3 cm

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Purchased with funds from Trustees and friends in memory of Hector Escobosa, Brayton Wilbur, and J.D.

Zellerbach

Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #27, 1970 Oil on canvas, 254 x 203.2 cm Brooklyn Museum. Gift of The Roebling Society and Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Blatt and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Jacobs, Jr., 72.4 Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #27, 1970
Oil on canvas, 254 x 203.2 cm

Brooklyn Museum. Gift of The Roebling Society and Mr. and Mrs. Charles H. Blatt and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Jacobs, Jr., 72.4

Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Berkeley, CaliforniaThe Ocean Park series are landscapes of Berkeley, California. But they  are not landscapes but abstract compositions. Its influences  suggest the likes of Hopper and Cezanne.  It is a stain glass windows. Light came through to the studios of Diebenkorn and he would try to capture it.

The style of the painting became flatter as  Diebenkorn would return to abstraction with the Ocean Parks series during his later years. He was a tall man and the paintings are over  6ft tall, the same length as this arms and his body included.

Pentimenti (definitition): Early traces of a painting

Artist Terms – Pentimenti: (definition) Early traces of a painting

In many of his paintings, you will see marks and early traces  of progress:  pentimenti. But these paintings in the late years  are not roughs or painting studies. This was large-scale painting instantaneously .

As you guessed it! As a lover of paint and  colours, I was inspecting the brush strokes and colour palettes. Some paintings stood out to  me.  I do tend to lean towards the cool blue colour palette.

Richard Diebenkorn Ocean Park #116, 1979 Oil and charcoal on canvas 208.3 x 182.9 cm Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, museum purchase, gift of Mrs. Paul L. Wattis Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #116, 1979
Oil and charcoal on canvas
208.3 x 182.9 cm

Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, museum purchase, gift of Mrs. Paul L. Wattis
Copyright 2014 The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

To be honest, I never heard of Diebenkorn before. Since working in galleries, I had excellent learning opportunities to see works of Artists I never really took notice before.  It taught me to be  open-minded and see face value what the exhibition and the artist tries to communicate.

If you do not have the chance to see the exhibition, do not worry as I hope my blog post will inspire you about Diebenkorn.

To be honest, it is a good exhibition to lead us into Summer. 
Dont you think?

I hope this post does inspire you to try spontaneously visiting an exhibition.

 What do you think of Diebenkorn’s work?

Please comment or message me. 

I loved to hear what you guys think


 Exhibition Information

Open until 7 June
The Sackler Wing, Burlington House
£11.50 (without donation £10). Concessions available. Friends of the RA and under 16s go free.

For further ticket and exhibition information, please click here to go to the Royal Academy official website.

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