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Clyfford Still

Clyfford Still (November 30, 1904 - June 23, 1980) was an American painter, one of the leading figures in abstract expressionism.

Still was born in Grandin, North Dakota. In the late 1920s and early 1930s he studied at Spokane University[?] in Washington, graduating in art in 1933. He went on to teach art at Washington State University.

After working in in California from 1941 to 1943, Still's frist solo exhibition came in 1943 at the San Francisco Museum of Art[?]. It was only a few years later, however, after he had met Mark Rothko and had a solo show hosted by Peggy Guggenheim, that he developed the style for which he is now best known. In 1946 he took a job at the California School of Fine Arts[?] in San Francisco, but moved back to New York City in 1950. A retrospective of his work was shown in Buffalo, New York before he moved once more in 1961, this time to a farm near Westminster, Maryland, where he remained for most of the rest of his life, largely cut-off from the rest of the art-world.

Still was one of the foremost "color field[?]" painters - his paintings are non-figurative, and largely concerned with juxtaposing different colours in a variety of formations. However, while Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman organised their colours in a relatively simple way (Rothko in the form of nebulous rectangles, Newman in thin lines on vast fields of colour), Still's arrangements are less regular. His jagged flashes of colour give the impression that one layer of colour has been "torn" off the painting, revealing the colours underneath. Another point of departure with Newman and Rothko is the the way the paint is laid on the canvas: while Rothko and Newman used fairly flat colours and relatively thin paint, Still uses a thick impasto, causing subtle variety in shade across the painting.

Among Still's better known paintings is 1957-D No. 1 (1957) which is mainly black and yellow with patches of white and a small amount of red. These four colors, and variations on them (purples, dark blues) are predominant in his work, and there is a tendency for his paintings to use darker shades.

Still was very particular about the way his works should be shown. Following the positive reception of the Buffalo retrospective in 1959, he donated 31 paintings to the Buffalo Fine Arts Academy on the condition that they must be shown permanently in their own room, never to be loaned out. Around 750 paintings and well over 10,000 works on paper have been held in storage in Maryland since his death owing to a stipulation in his will that they may only be shown in a gallery built to his own specifications and under his own terms.

Shortly before his death, a retrospective of his work was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Still died in 1980 in Baltimore, Maryland.

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