Jules Olitski

Born 1922.
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Jules Olitski Biography

Russian-born American artist Jules Olitski was best known for his contribution to the development of Color Field painting in the 1960s. Throughout his career, he investigated the nature of the surface painting, and experimented with alternative methods and materials, including industrial spray guns, and dragging or layering various paint types on his canvases. Many of his works evoke a hazy, ethereal world through thin and light paint application, while others utilize a heavy impasto for a sculptural effect.

Olitski was born Jevel Demikovski in Snovsk in the Soviet Union in 1922, months before his father’s execution by the Soviet government. He immigrated to Brooklyn with his mother and grandmother the following year, and his mother remarried, giving Olitski his new name and safer surroundings. Olitski displayed a distinct talent for art at an early age, and won his first art prizes as a teenager. Following a brief stint in the US Army, he went on to study with Ossip Zadkine at the Zadkine School of Sculpture and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris on the G.I. Bill in the 1940s, and eventually completed his BA and MA degrees in Art Education at New York University in the early 1950s. His works became increasingly delicate and shadowed, as if obscure forms were attempting to materialize from within the canvas. His first major solo exhibition in the United States, at Alexander Iolas gallery in 1958, brought him critical attention from Clement Greenberg, the towering figure of American art criticism and leading advocate for abstraction, who exhibited his works the following year at French & Company. He represented the United States at the 1966 Venice Biennale, and became the first living American artist to have a solo exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1969.

Olitiski continued experimenting with new forms and materials into his 80s, and he worked until his death in 2007, and his art continue to captivate collectors and admirers today. They can be found in the permanent collections of major museums around the world including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Tate Modern, London, and the Art Institute of Chicago, among many others.

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Artist Image: Credit: Album / Alamy Stock Photo