Richard Diebenkorn

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Richard Diebenkorn
Ocean Park 116 1979 abstract artwork by Richard Diebenkorn

Ocean Park 116 1979

Born: 04/22/1922
Location: Portland, United States
Died: 03/30/1993
Age: 70
Movements Abstract Expressionism
Bay Area Figurative Movement
Color Field
Nationality American
Expertise Painting

Born in Portland in 1922, Richard Clifford Diebenkorn, Jr., grew up to become a key painter in the Abstract Expressionist movement. With his passion for color and strong, structural lines, Richard Diebenkorn left behind a modern art legacy.

Personal life

Although Richard Diebenkorn was born in Portland, Oregon, his family relocated to California when Diebenkorn was very young. He attended Stanford University as a young man, focusing on both studio art and art history. Diebenkorn worked with artists Victor Arnautoff and Daniel Mendelowitz. In 1943, Diebenkorn married Phyllis Gilman, a young woman who also attended Stanford. They had two children, Gretchen and Christopher. In the 1940s, Diebenkorn served in the U.S. Marine Corps. During this time, he continued to paint, developing his own unique style. In 1946, Diebenkorn returned to San Francisco and studied at the California School of Fine Arts.


While he was serving as a Marine, Diebenkorn focused on his representational work. On returning from service, he drew inspiration from a number of sources, including his stay in the artistic community in Woodstock, New York. This sparked his interest in abstract work. After moving to New Mexico in 1950, Diebenkorn presented a series of colorful, abstract pieces. Paintings such as Albuquerque No. 9 show his evolving ability as an avant-garde artist. Diebenkorn was an artist who grew and changed throughout his entire career. When he and his family moved to Urbana, Illinois, Diebenkorn started incorporating calligraphic influences into his work. Urbana No. 6 displayed this more sophisticated palette and structural lines. Following a stint in New York, Diebenkorn returned to familiar territory. Settling in Berkeley, he worked boldly with color and shapes. One of his well-known paintings from this time is Berkeley No. 57. Although his abstract work had earned him attention, it was his switch to representational art that truly established Diebenkorn as an artist. Woman in Profile and Girl with Plant proved that Diebenkorn could combine strong lines and color choices with representational subjects. Diebenkorn would remain an active artist until the end of his life. Some of his better-known paintings from the 1960s include geometric landscapes, such as Cityscape I. The prolific artist still had the ability to surprise critics. He presented images such as Untitled #46 in the 1980s, showing new directions in his artistic vision. Diebenkorn left behind an astonishing body of work, characterized by great versatility.

Fun Facts

  • The G.I. Bill allowed Diebenkorn to study art at the California School of Fine Arts and the University of New Mexico.
  • One of Diebenkorn’s projects in his later years involved illustrations for a book of poems by W.B. Yeats.
  • Diebenkorn was very active in academia, both as a student and a teacher.

Related Artists


Some Examples of Richard Diebenkorn’s Artwork

Berkeley No 8

Berkeley No 8

Santa Fe Opera 2008 Festival Season flyer with abstract artwork by Richard Diebenkorn

Santa Fe Opera 2008 Festival Season