Academy Art Museum Offers Diebenkorn Exhibition

Audiences today generally know the career of Richard Diebenkorn (1922–1993) in three periods: the Sausalito, Albuquerque, Urbana, and “early Berkeley” periods of Abstract Expressionism; the Berkeley figurative/representational period; and lastly the famous Ocean Park and Healdsburg series of abstractions. Yet Diebenkorn’s earliest work remains very little known.

This untitled Richard Diebenkorn painting is circa 1943. Photograph courtesy of the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

The exhibition, “Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955,” will be on view at the Academy Art Museum in Easton from April 26 to July 14 – the only venue on the East Coast. A reception on Friday, April 26, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. is free and open to the public.

The exhibition and its accompanying catalogue aim to present a comprehensive view of Richard Diebenkorn’s evolution to maturity, focusing solely on the paintings and drawings that precede his 1955 shift to figuration at age 33. Included in the exhibition are 100 paintings and drawings from the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, offering a full picture of the young artist’s achievements.

Certainly, many of the elements that came to define Richard’s mature work are present in his earliest paintings and drawings, which evolved rapidly from representational landscape scenes and portraits of military colleagues, to semi-abstract and Surrealist-inspired depictions of topography and the human form, to mature Abstract Expressionist paintings that he made while living in California, New Mexico, and Illinois.

The exhibition reveals the forces that shaped Richard as a young artist, including his teachers and mentors, most notably painter David Park, whose artistic and paternal guidance lasted until David Park’s early death in 1960. It also evidences the influence of artists he admired, including Arshile Gorky, Joan Miró, and Willem de Kooning; as well as the writings of art critic Clement Greenberg.

In 1955, the artist abandoned the non-objective purity of Abstract Expressionism and, while keeping its painterly language, made a return to representational painting. He reversed course yet again in 1967, after moving to Santa Monica, California, where he produced a new, highly acclaimed series that he called Ocean Park. Some of the works in “Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955” have not been seen by the public nor reproduced, except in the context of the artist’s recent catalogue raisonné (Yale University Press, 2016). Together these drawings and paintings offer a fuller picture of Richard’s precocious achievements.

Dorsey Waxter, partner at Van Doren Waxter, New York, whose gallery represents the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation states, “This exhibition is an exceptional opportunity to see the nascent work of an artist who became a giant in American art. For anyone who admires Richard Diebenkorn, the paintings and works on paper in this exhibition will offer a window into the artist’s early explorations that are so important to understanding what became his mature period. This is a must-see exhibition for all ages and audiences who want to understand how an artist becomes one.”

The exhibition is organized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation in conjunction with the Crocker Art Museum, and curated by Scott Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator of the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento. The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation expands knowledge and fosters appreciation of the artist and his role in central artistic developments of the 20th century. The foundation increases public access to Richard’s work and understanding of his legacy and times through support of exhibitions, loan of artworks, research, publications, archival services, and digital initiatives. The new provides unprecedented public access to the artist’s work and archives.

The exhibition opened in 2017, traveling from the Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento; to the David Owsley Museum of Art, Muncie, Indiana; the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon; and The Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Malibu, prior to coming to the Academy Art Museum, the sole East Coast venue of the show. The exhibition is sponsored by the Maryland State Arts Council, Talbot County Arts Council and the Star Democrat.

The Academy Art Museum will offer associated programs, including a lecture and book signing by Scott Shields, Associate Director and Chief Curator, Crocker Museum of Art, author of the exhibition catalogue Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942–1955, on Sunday, April 28 at 2 p.m.

On Saturday, June 1, Gretchen Diebenkorn Grant, daughter of the artist, will be introduced by Dorsey Waxter, Partner of Van Doren Waxter, New York, and will present the lecture, “My Father: Richard Diebenkorn.”

The Museum, located at 106 South Street, is one of Easton’s historic landmarks – deeply tied to the educational community in Easton since 1800. Its permanent collection includes important paintings by Gene Davis and Anne Truitt among others and is especially strong on works paper by modern American and European masters. The museum holds drawings, photographs, and prints by artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Robert Rauschenberg, and Martin Puryear. Welcoming over 50,000 visitors and participants annually to experience national and regional exhibitions, the museum also offers concerts, lectures, educational programs, and visual and performing arts classes for adults and children.

Museum hours: Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Wednesdays, admission is free. For further information, visit or call 410-822-2787.

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Allison Rogers


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