Estate of the Artist
Galleria Lawrence Rubin, Milan
Lawrence and Marina Rubin, Milan
Zeltweg Fine Art, Switzerland
John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2004
New York, Knoedler & Company, Small Format Oil on Canvas: Figures, Still Lifes and Landscapes, November – December 1994, cat. no. 24, illustrated
New York, Artemis Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, Figurative Drawings, Gouaches and Oil Paintings, April – June 2002, pl. 34, illustrated
Though Richard Diebenkorn's early work best fits the description of West Coast Abstract Expressionism - the geographical qualification paramount at a time when American art production was almost exclusively based in New York City – he is known mostly as a founding father of the Bay Area Figurative Movement. Diebenkorn, along with artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Nathan Oliviera, Paul Wonner, and David Park, applied the spontaneous, frenetic style popular at the time to figuration, tethering vividness of color and boldness of line to objective reality.
Still indebted to abstraction, and still sympathetic to its nihilism and grandiosity, Diebenkorn successfully harmonized the nonrepresentational and the pictorial, his images at once of the mind and of the world. Painted in 1962, Untitled is perfectly situated within a transformational phase for Diebenkorn. The subject's blacked-out eyes, reminiscent of Modigliani, pre-date the tour he would take of Europe just one year later, from which he would glean figurative inspiration from the works of Henri Matisse. The present work is thus an early iteration of the style in which he would continue to work through the following decade.
By positioning a contemporary woman within the classical trope of the reclining semi-nude, Diebenkorn is able to simultaneously look forward and backwards. The muted color palette and lack of detail in the background create a primitive form of atmospheric perspective. In the meantime, the blue and green hues of the foreground portend those that he would use in the later Ocean Park paintings. Here, the expressive brushwork betrays what is in fact great restraint. A limited palette and compositional simplicity organize the canvas while allowing for moments of pure abstraction within the figurative frame.
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