Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992)was a founding member of the New York School, which included Willem de Kooning,Adolph Gottlieb, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, JacksonPollock, and Mark Rothko. Active in New York from the early 1940s, Pousette-Dartmade important contributions to the Abstract Expressionist movement. He was thefirst of the Abstract Expressionist group to break through and paint mural-sizecanvases, e.g., Symphony No.1, The Transcendental (1941–42), and Undulation,(1941–42), which anticipated Jackson Pollock’s mural scale work in 1943. Duringthis period Pousette-Dart’s technique began to emphasize gesture, layers ofpaint, and evocative subject matter that were the first pictorial statements ofwhat came to be known as “action painting” as seen in Comprehension of theAtom, Crucifixion (1944). In 1950, Pousette-Dart appeared in the historicphotograph The Irascibles, depicting fifteen New York School abstract painters.
In 1947, Peggy Guggenheim gave him asolo exhibition at her New York gallery, Art of This Century, where theartist’s best-known masterpiece and first large-scale Abstract Expressionistpainting, Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental was able to be shown for the firsttime.
|1941-2 Symphony No 1, The Transcendental oil on canvas 22 x 36 cm|
Pousette-Dart drew inspiration fromNative American, African, and Oceanic art, as well as European and Americanartistic trends, and the writings of Freud and Jung. He was influenced byOriental philosophy and American Transcendentalism and held to the convictionthat the abstract symbols of painting could reveal universal truths bysuggesting the mysterious realm of the spirit. In 1947 he wrote, “I strive toexpress the spiritual nature of the universe. Painting for me is a dynamicbalance and wholeness of life; it is mysterious and transcending, yet solid andreal.”
In 1951, the solitude he needed forhis life’s work required him to move out of New York. In 1958 he and his wife,the poet Evelyn Gracey Pousette-Dart, moved to the countryside near Suffern,New York, where his studio is still preserved today.
Glowing and mysterious “white”paintings from 1950–51, painted with white gouache/oil and pencil/graphiteinclude Descending Bird Forms and White Garden, Sky.
|1951 White Garden, Sky oil & graphite on linen 136 x 154 cm|
Pousette-Dart’s work in the 1960scontributed to the colour field and lyrical abstraction that were an importantevolution of Abstract Expressionism. His later works transpose the bright lightand brushwork of Impressionism into abstract meditations, suggesting thefrontier of the unconscious which Jung had described. These paintings havetitles evoking the magic of their radiant, pulsating, and subtly coloredsurfaces such as Amaranth Garden, Night Landscape, Golden Presence, ByzantineCathedral, and Lost in the Beginnings of Infinity.
Richard Pousette-Dart’s paintings and drawings have beenexhibited nationally and internationally in solo exhibitions organized by The Museumof Modern Art, New York (1969–70), the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York(1963, 1974, and 1998), the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1986), theIndianapolis Museum of Art, Indiana (1990), the Detroit Institute of Arts,Michigan (1991), the Columbus Museum, Ohio (1991–92), the Metropolitan Museumof Art, New York (1997), the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2001), the LosAngeles County Museum of Art (2006), the Fine Arts Museum, San Francisco(2006), and the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio (2007), in addition to innumerablegroup exhibitions.
All images © The Estate of Richard Pousette-Dart
Note: Clicking on the smaller images will give you a larger version.
Sizes where shown have been rounded up or down to thenearest whole centimetre:
|c1930 Untitled oil on canvas 15 x 20 cm|
|1935 Head of Persephone oil on linen 61 x 51 cm|
|1939 Bird Woman oil on linen 183 x 102 cm|
|1939 River Metamorphosis oil on linen 95 x 114 cm|
|1940 Desert oil on canvas 109 x 183 cm|
|1940 Head of a King oil on canvas 25 x 23 cm|
|1942 Undulation oil on linen 122 x 239 cm|
|1943 Fugue No. 2 oil & sand on canvas 104 x 270 cm|
|1943 The Center oil on linen 141 x 121 cm|
|1944 Comprehension of the Atom, Crucifixion oil on linen 196 x 125 cm|
|1944-5 Figure oil on canvas 210 x 124 cm|
|1947-48 The Atom, One World oil on linen 128 x 136 cm|
|1950 Entrance oil on canvas 97 x 267 cm|
|1950-1 The Magnificent oil on canvas 220 x 112 cm|
|1952 Cascella II oil on canvas 166 x 114 cm|
|1952 Golden Dawn oil & graphite on linen 237 x 131 cm|
|1957 White Gothic #3 oil on canvas 235 x 166 cm|
|1958 Blood Wedding oil on linen 183 x 284 cm|
|1958 Illumination Gothic oil on canvas 183 x 136 cm|