Richard Diebenkorn - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 14, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Video

    Richard Diebenkorn, 'Albuquerque #7', Lot 22

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 14 October

  • Provenance

    Estate of the Artist
    Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, New York (acquired in 2010)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2010

  • Exhibited

    Albuquerque, University Gallery, University of New Mexico, Master’s Degree Exhibition, April 29 - May 5, 1951
    New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Richard Diebenkorn, October 9, 1997 - January 19, 1999, no. 67, p. 271 (illustrated, p. 120)
    Taos, Harwood Museum of Art of the University of New Mexico; The San Jose Museum of Art; New York, Grey Art Gallery of New York University, Richard Diebenkorn in New Mexico, June 2, 2007 - April 15, 2008, pl. 57, p. 150 (illustrated, p. 109)
    New York, Greenberg Van Doren Gallery, Richard Diebenkorn: Paintings & Drawings 1949-1955, May 5 - June 25, 2010, p. 12 (illustrated, p. 13)
    London, Royal Academy of Arts, Richard Diebenkorn, March 14 - June 7, 2015, no. 3, pp. 23, 71 (illustrated, p. 70)

  • Literature

    Robert T. Buck Jr. et. al., Richard Diebenkorn: Paintings and Drawings, 1943-1976, exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1976, fig. 30, p. 19 (University Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 1951 installation view illustrated)
    Mark Lavatelli, "Richard Diebenkorn: The Albuquerque Years", Artspace, June 1980, p. 24 (University Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque 1951 installation view illustrated)
    Sari Krosinsky, "Richard Diebenkorn: The New Mexico Period", Mirage Magazine, Spring 2007, p. 34 (illustrated)
    Michael S. Gant, "Naturalists", Metro Silicon Valley, October 17-23, 2007
    Hollis Walker, "Reviews: Richard Diebenkorn, Harwood Museum of Art, Taos", ARTnews, November 2007, p. 228
    Kevin Mellema, "Northern Virginia Art Beat", Falls Church News-Press, August 14-20, 2008, p. 22 (detail illustrated)
    Cynthia Nadelman, "Reviews: Richard Diebenkorn, Greenberg Van Doren and Leslie Feely Fine Art", ARTnews, September 2010, p. 106
    Jane Livingston and Andrea Liguori, eds., Richard Diebenkorn: The Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, New Haven, 2016, p. 44
    Jane Livingston and Andrea Liguori, eds., Richard Diebenkorn: The Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 2, New Haven, 2016, no. 1100, p. 390 (illustrated, p. 389)

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I think I was saying to myself in Albuquerque that OK I’m going to damn well paint what I want. I’m not going to do this qualifying of my intuitive responses…If grass green and sky blue and desert tan; if these associations come into my work, that’s part of my experience” - Richard Diebenkorn

    Painted in 1951 at the peak of Richard Diebenkorn’s early explorations in abstraction, Albuquerque #7 originates from one of the most fruitful periods of the artist’s prolific career. Almost six feet tall, its vertical composition is defined by four bands of paint inspired by the resplendent colors of the New Mexico landscape. Influenced by modernists such as Henri Matisse and Joan Miró, and inspired by his contemporaries including Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky, the works Diebenkorn produced during his master’s program at the University of New Mexico between 1949 and 1952 were critical in his artistic development. Through painting, drawing and a few metal sculptures, the artist found his abstract voice, one which would inspire the Berkeley paintings of the years following, as well as the Ocean Park series of decades later. Exhibited internationally—beginning most notably with his traveling retrospective in 1997 starting at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and most recently in 2015 at the Royal Academy of Arts, London—the present work is only the third major Albuquerque painting to come to auction in the past ten years.

    Before its first museum debut in 1997, Albuquerque #7 was included in Diebenkorn’s master’s exhibition in its titular city in 1951, featuring a total of 16 paintings, six drawings and at least two sculptures. As Gerald Nordland recalled, “The exhibition had a very personal look…With these paintings the artist’s directness becomes a positive element of style rather than a simple indifference to studio practices, and they dramatize his freshness, excitement, and passion…Diebenkorn was pleased with his showing; it had reflected his most productive period to date” (Gerald Nordland, Richard Diebenkorn: Revised and Expanded, New York, 1987, pp. 39-40). Following the success of the exhibition, Los Angeles-based dealer Paul Kantor offered Diebenkorn his next show that fall. After leaving Albuquerque in the summer of 1952, the artist stored his New Mexico works near Pomona, California, from which only two of the three rolls would be retrieved for Kantor’s exhibition. It wasn’t until the 1990s when the artist’s Estate would recover the third roll, which likely included the present work, as it would be almost 50 years before Albuquerque #7 was seen again at the Whitney.

    Formally, the Albuquerque paintings offer the most intimate look at Diebenkorn’s practice than any of the works in his entire oeuvre. Expanses of rich color reveal underpainting beneath the surface, illustrating the artist’s mind at work. As he explained of his process behind these paintings, “[A painting] came about by putting down what I felt in terms of some overall image at the moment today, and perhaps being terribly disappointed with it tomorrow, and trying to make it better and then despairing and destroying partially or wholly and getting back into it and just kind of frantically trying to pull something into this rectangle which made some sense to me” (Richard Diebenkorn, quoted in “Diebenkorn, Lee Mullican, and Emerson Woelffer: A Discussion”, Artforum 1, April 1963, pp. 24-29). Albuquerque #7 reflects improvisation and spontaneity, with certain areas built up as if to hide what’s beneath while others reveal black contours suggesting an earlier composition. Such aesthetic choices are aptly described by Nordland: “Albuquerque #7 presents four irregularly stacked horizontal bands—black, dark red, green over white, and mottled charcoal gray. Pentimenti can be read in each band. The green-over-white area which is the most prominent is graced with one of the artist’s calligraphic ovals. These nearly six-foot canvases share some of the quiet dignity of Rothko’s early classic works” (Gerald Nordland in Jane Livingston and Andrea Liguori, eds., Richard Diebenkorn: The Catalogue Raisonné, vol. 1, New Haven, 2016, p. 44).

    Indeed the Albuquerque works reflect similar preoccupations with color and line as those of Mark Rothko, and yet the importance of place is uniquely Diebenkorn. Many of these paintings are characterized by earth tones, but as Sarah C. Bancroft explains in reference to the present work, “Of course, Diebenkorn’s Albuquerque works incorporated cool tones as well, with elements of sky, water, grass and other local sources of color subsumed into the work” (Sarah C. Bancroft, Richard Diebenkorn, exh. cat., Royal Academy of Arts, London, 2015, p. 23). When reading the present work as a landscape, Diebenkorn’s modernist influences like Matisse are evident, particularly in painterly Fauvist compositions such as La Moulade, 1905, works which the artist became familiar with in the 1940s during his visits to museums in Washington, D.C. when stationed at Quantico. Interpreted this way, Albuquerque #7 could be a portrait of a sunset – the small passage of orange in the center left part of the composition peeking through the reddish pink peaks of the Sandia Mountains over green forestry flanking the Rio Grande. Clearly New Mexico’s rich landscape was not lost on Diebenkorn, who once said his “primary concern in painting is space, which to me is the most characteristic thing about New Mexico…[large, blank areas in his paintings] reveal that openness of the desert, the vastness of the sky” (Richard Diebenkorn, quoted in “Diebenkorn’s Art is Shown”, Albuquerque Journal, May 2, 1951, p. 8). Indeed, Diebenkorn was not the only artist to be inspired by the natural beauty of the West; among him were artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe and Agnes Martin who would also be transfixed by the wonders of the desert.

    The effects of the Albuquerque paintings can be no better explained than by Dore Ashton after encountering her first New Mexico-period Diebenkorn: “In the soft light of a New Mexican adobe house, where I had the good luck to see my first Diebenkorn painting…the painting…reflected not only his poetic grasp of the landscape before him, but also where he had been before… It is only one of Diebenkorn’s special talents to preserve and enrich experiences, evolving steadily at a harmonious pace. I don’t think he has ever left the desert behind” (Dore Ashton, “Richard Diebenkorn’s Paintings”, Arts Magazine, December 1971-January 1972, p. 35).

Property of an Important Private Collector


Albuquerque #7

signed and partially titled "R DIEBENKORN #7" on the reverse
oil on canvas
70 3/8 x 38 3/8 in. (178.8 x 97.5 cm.)
Painted in 1951.

$900,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $1,040,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th C. & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 14 November 2019