Clyfford Still United States, 1904-1980


Clyfford Still (b. 1904, Grandin, North Dakota; d. 1980, Baltimore, Maryland) belonged to the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters. Still began his career painting representational compositions with a particular interest in landscapes before eventually transitioning to abstraction in the late 1930s. The artist’s foray into abstraction was one of the earliest among his contemporaries, and his new monumental gestural paintings gained immediate attention; Still had his first solo exhibition in 1943 at the San Francisco Museum of Art. Through his close peer and fellow Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko, Still was introduced to the legendary Peggy Guggenheim who quickly became enamored with his work and gave the artist a solo exhibition at her gallery, The Art of This Century, in 1946. That same year, Still began teaching at the California School of Fine Arts where he was highly influential in inspiring an upcoming generation of artists to move away from realism towards gestural abstraction. After working with the Betty Parsons Gallery (known for representing several Abstract Expressionist artists), Still retreated from the commercial art world in New York, settling in the 1950s in Maryland where he remained until his death. Per Still’s will, all remaining works not yet acquired by collections or in the public domain were barred from being sold or acquired and sealed off from public access for twenty years before the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado, where the artist’s estate was bequeathed. Still’s works remaining in private hands are therefore incredibly rare and highly coveted. The artist’s work is held in prominent museum collections including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington D.C., and Tate, London.