These are not paintings in the usual sense they are life and death merging in a fearful union.” – Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still is known today as one of New York’s most important and most reclusive painters. After his death in 1980, his will specified that his art be given to “an American city willing to establish a permanent museum dedicated solely to his work.” Denver proved to be that city. The Clyfford Still Museum is scheduled to open in 2010.

Andy and I completed a course at the University of Denver, taught by Dean Sobel, Director of the Clyfford Still Museum and recognized authority on the art of the 20th century. As part of the course, Mr. Sobel provided a preview of some of the pieces that were on display at the Denver Art Musem at that time.

A pioneering Abstract Expressionist, in the mid-1940s Clyfford Still became one of the first artists of the New York School to paint on a large, “heroic” scale, and one of the first to ignore representational subject matter. Still’s work married the two strands of Abstract Expressionism. Like the Color Field painters, he was concerned with the emotive power of color. Like the Action Painters, he was interested in the expressive possibilities of brushwork, typically using a heavily loaded brush to create jagged, impasto forms.

In the early 1950s, Clyfford Still ended his relationship with the prestigious Betty Parsons and Sidney Janis galleries in New York, and from that time forward, represented himself. Very few paintings entered the art market and subsequently the museum will house over 94 percent of the artist’s total output. The Clyfford Still Estate contains approximately 825 paintings and 1575 works on paper. The collection includes 350 paintings dating from 1944-1960: Still’s “breakthrough period” and the years of “high” Abstract Expressionism. Many canvases span over ten-by-fourteen feet.

In addition to the artworks, the museum will also house the artist’s archives of letters, sketchbooks, manuscripts, photo albums and personal effects, most of which have never been seen by the public.

The Clyfford Still Museum will be located in Denver, Colorado near the Denver Art Museum in the city’s Civic Center Cultural Complex.

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February 8, 2010

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