Artists & Designers

Clyfford Still (1904-1980)

Born and raised in the Northwest, Clyfford Still's paintings evoke craggy canyons, cascading waterfalls, towering trees, and all-consuming forest fires. The grandeur of Still's conceptions is reminiscent in feeling of 19th-century romantic landscape painting. His interlocking jagged shapes which fuse figure and ground into one continuous surface share with Mark Rothko the idea of a painting as an open terrain across which the artist inscribes his presence. Still deals with such metaphysical dualities as night and day, sun and earth, male and female, good and evil, through his dramatic use of value contrasts. Still affirms his romantic roots by obsessively referring to "freedom," liberation," and "joy" in his writings. He also saw the role of the artist as one that stands apart, strives for purity, and rejects all claims of community in favor of an allegiance to individualism.

Along with Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, and Rothko, Clyfford Still became known as a pioneer of the mural-scale painting, a unique type of wall-size painting created by the Abstract Expressionist generation. Still's use of thick pigment presents the viewer the impervious surface of a wall by which figure and ground become interchangeable.

Adapted from

DMA unpublished material.

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