Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Diebenkorn, Richard from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


US painter

Born in Portland, Oregon, he enrolled in 1946 at the California School of Fine Arts, San Francisco, where he taught from 1947 to 1950. During the 1950s he developed a style close to Abstract Expressionism while retaining suggestions of the Californian landscape and of city motifs; his two major series of paintings, developed over many years, focus on Berkeley and Ocean Park. The loose, gestural brushwork of the 1950s gave way to more geometrical compositions during the 1960s and 1970s. Diebenkorn evoked the dazzling Californian light by using bright, semi-translucent colours, particularly blues and yellows.

Summary Article: Diebenkorn, Richard
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

US painter. A leading member of the second generation of abstract expressionists, he gained worldwide renown for his Ocean Park series of mainly abstract canvases 1967–88.

Diebenkorn was born in Portland, Oregon but grew up in San Francisco. He went to Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley 1940–43 before joining the US Marines. After World War II he studied for a time at the California School of Fine Arts and then spent a year in New York. His earliest work was representational and full of light, showing the influence of the older American artist, Edward Hopper. By the time of his first one-man show in San Francisco 1948, Diebenkorn had become an abstract expressionist, and was regarded as one of the New York School artists, although he rejected their influences. He worked and taught in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Urbana, Illinois before returning to San Francisco 1953.

In 1955 he turned to figurative art, painting still-lifes and landscapes, until 1967 when he moved to Santa Monica, Los Angeles. It was here he returned to abstraction and began the Ocean Park paintings, named after a district of Santa Monica. He represented the USA at the Venice Biennale 1978 but his work remained largely unseen in Europe until a retrospective exhibition held first at the Whitechapel Gallery in London 1991, and then in galleries in Germany and Spain.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles

Full text Article Diebenkorn, Richard (1922 - 1993)
The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists

U.S. painter. He studied (1946) at the California School of Fine Arts. He achieved recognition as an abstract painter but in 1955...

Full text Article Diebenkorn Richard (1922 - 1993)
A Biographical Dictionary of Artists, Andromeda

Richard Diebenkorn was one of a group of American West Coast artists based on the San Francisco Bay area who abandoned abstraction...

See more from Credo