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Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn at Crown Point Press, Oakland, 1986, photograph by Kathan Brown, Courtesy Crown Point Press


Richard Diebenkorn in the Crown Point
studio, 1982, photograph by Colin McRae,
Courtesy Crown Point Press

Revision was integral to the creative process of Richard Diebenkorn (American, 1922–1993). “I seem to have to do it elaborately wrong and with many conceits first,” he wrote. “Then maybe I can attack and deflate my pomposity and arrive at something straight and simple.” This was more than just a self-deprecating remark. After roughing out a composition and having it printed, Diebenkorn would revise select passages incrementally through numerous stages.

Whether he was working in a purely abstract mode, a figurative mode, or with favored motifs such as clubs and spades, his concerns were largely formal, addressing compositional structure and the relations between lines, shapes, and colors. Diebenkorn set his artistic course to “rightness,” a term he regularly invoked. He navigated by following an intuitive sense of what worked: reassessing and adjusting as he went along, seeking something close to harmony, yet still allowing for “a sudden, surprising contradiction.”

Banner image: Detail, Richard Diebenkorn, Green (working proof 7), 1986, color spitbite aquatint, soapground aquatint, and drypoint with pasted-down elements, Kathan Brown, © The Estate of Richard Diebenkorn

Next: Richard Diebenkorn, Touched Red, 1991