Richard Diebenkorn was born in Portland, Oregon in 1922, Two years later his family moved to San Francisco. After attending Stanford University from 1940 to 1942, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. Returning to San Francisco in 1946, he enrolled at the California School of Fine Arts, where he studied with David Park, an expressionist artist from the Bay Area. Awarded a fellowship the same year, he moved East, living and working in Woodstock, New York.
After returning to San Francisco, he was appointed to the faculty at the California School of Fine Arts in 1947, a position he held for two years. His fellow teachers included Elmer Bischof, Hassel Smith, Mark Rothko, and Clyfford Still. Diebenkorn had his first one-person show in 1948 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor. After receiving a degree from Stanford University in 1949, he earned an M.F.A. from the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque in 1951. He briefly taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana 1952-53, settling after in Berkeley, California.
Diebenkorn often titled his works after places that provided him with inspiration, such as his Berkeley paintings. Throughout the 1940s and early 1950s, he followed a distinctive abstract vocabulary of forms, stylistically rooted in the New York School, placing him firmly within American modernism. In 1955 he shifted from abstraction to a more representational mode, making reference to observed subjects. Until 1967, when he returned to abstraction, he executed still-lifes, landscapes and interior figure paintings that present his finely tuned sense of color and structure.
From 1955 to 1973 Diebenkorn worked in a studio in the Ocean Park district of Santa Monica. There he created his last representational works, but returned to abstraction with his Ocean Park paintings. This series is characterized by broadly brushed surfaces of luminescent and atmospheric color, affirming the artist’s continuing concern with formal issues. These abstract brilliantly colored works—both paintings and drawings—elicited great acclaim. Diebenkorn remained a prolific artist until his death in Berkeley, California, in 1993.
Adapted from the artist's biography published by the Phillips Collection
The artist's exhibition history and bibliography published by the Estate of Richard Diebenkorn: Richard Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonne
Photograph of the artist © Leo Holub. All rights reserved.