Works by Clyfford Still at Sotheby's
Clyfford Still Biography
American painter Clyfford Still was one leading figures in the first generation of the Abstract Expressionist movement, which developed in America following the Second World War. Today, the majority of the artworks from Still's estate are housed in the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado. Given this, it is quite rare for artworks by Still that comes to market.
Clyfford Still was born in 1904 in Grandin, North Dakota, and spent his childhood in Spokane, Washington, and Bow Island in southern Alberta, Canada. In 1925, Still moved to New York, where he briefly attended studied with the Art Students League. From 1926-1927 Still opted to attend Spokane University, and, in 1931, he returned to the university to complete a fellowship. After graduating in 1933, Still took a role as a teaching fellow at Washington State College (now known as Washington State University). Still received a Master of Fine Arts degree from the university in 1935, and taught until 1941.
In 1941, Still moved to the San Francisco Bay area. There, he continued to paint and found work in a number of war-related industries. His first solo exhibition came in 1943, at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now called the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). From 1943-1945 Still taught at the Richmond Professional Institute (now called the Virginia Commonwealth University).
In the late 1940s, Still visited New York City often for extended periods of time, becoming acquainted with two galleries: Art of This Century and Betty Parsons. Artist Mark Rothko, whom Still met in California in the early years of 1940, connected Still to Peggy Guggenheim, who ran the Art of This Century Gallery; in 1946, Guggenheim gave Still his first East Coast solo exhibition. Amongst the foremost figures of American Abstract Expressionism, Still’s influential role within that movement cannot be overstated, especially as one examines the impact of his paintings when first unveiled in New York in early 1946.
Still joined the Betty Parsons gallery the following year – along with Rothko and others – after Guggenheim closed her gallery.
Still spent much of the 1950s, the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement, in New York City. But it's during this time that the artist began taking a critical eye to the art world; Underscoring Still’s commitment to independent aesthetic evolution, the artist would eventually withdraw from the pressures and influences of the New York art establishment several years later, in pursuit of a more individualized practice. In the wake of this departure, Still maintained relationships with only a select group of trusted curators and institutions.
In 1961, Still and his second wife, Patricia Alice Garske Still, moved to Maryland – there they stayed until his death in 1980. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York organized the largest exhibition of Still's work to date in 1979.
Today, artworks by Still are housed in various renowned museums, including the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, CO; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY; the The Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY; and Tate in London, UK.