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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still (1904-1980) was an American painter who was part of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists to develop a new approach to painting following World War II. Among Still's contemporaries were Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Still himself was said to have laid the groundwork for the movement, shifting from representative painting to abstraction earlier than his peers.

Still was a "color field" painter, largely concerned with arranging colors in a variety of formations. Mark Rothko organized his colors in a series of nebulous rectangles, but Still's arrangements looked like jagged flashes of color, giving the impression that one layer of color had been torn from the painting, revealing the colors underneath.

He was born in Grandin, North Dakota, but he spent much of his childhood in Spokane, Washington. He attended the Arts Students League in New York in 1925, attended Spokane University from 1926 to 1927 and returned in 1931 with a teaching fellow, graduating in 1933. He taught at Washington State College, Pullman, where he received his M.F.A. in 1935.

He moved to San Francisco in 1941 and had his first one-man show at the San Francisco Museum of Art (now SFMOMA). In 1943 he met Mark Rothko and then taught at Virginia Professional Institute (now Virginia Commonwealth University) before moving to New York in 1945, where he lived through most of the 1950s.  Rothko introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim, who gave him a solo show at her Art of this Century Gallery in 1946. During the 1950s, at the height of Abstract Expressionism, he became very critical of the art world and severed ties with commercial galleries. In 1961 he moved to Maryland, where he lived until his death in 1980.

After his death, his works were sealed from public scholarly access, but in 2003, his widow began to worry that there might be a fire in the warehouse where they were stored, so she released the 825 paintings and 1575 works on paper, valued at $850,000,000. They are now housed in The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado.

From,, and


Untitled, 1956

1957-J No. 2 (PH-401)

1960 PH-960

1962 PH-21

For a bizarre story about a woman who vandalized one of Still's paintings, click here.  For a look into the Maryland house that Still called home for twenty years, click here.


  1. Outstanding works of art; I learn so much when I stop by here.

    Can't really see you as a Ouiser, but I wouldn't mind being her myself....she had schwiiing!

    1. Trust me, I learn as much from this blog as anyone. My friend Tamra sent me a Facebook invite to like the page dedicated to The Clyfford Still House. Next thing I knew, I was visiting site after site to learn more about Still, and this post was the result.

      Oh, yes, I definitely have a streak of Ouiser in me a mile wide. :)

  2. Abstract Expressionism was my favourite art movement when I was at school, I think I liked the rebellious use of colour, great post Dana x

    1. Rothko is still my hands-down favorite from that movement. I like almost all his work, but there are some of Still's pieces, as well as a few by Barnett Newman, that I also like. I tend to favor the color field painters.

  3. I hadn't heard of Still before. I love the orange painting!

    1. I think once he withdrew from commercial galleries, his name was somewhat obscured to most of us. I really like some of his work too.