Robert Richenburg

Robert Richenburg

Outrageous Ingenuity

Robert Richenburg (July 14, 1917 – October 10, 2006) was an Abstract Expressionist artist based in New York City, whose paintings were widely acclaimed in the 1950s and 1960s. Richenburg’s career as a painter followed training in his teens at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, art history studies at George Washington University, courses at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C. and at the Art Students League in New York, and service in World War II as a combat engineer dealing with explosives, mines and booby traps. Within five years of his return to the States, Richenburg had studied with Amédée Ozenfant and Hans Hofmann, lived for a year in Provincetown, Massachusetts (where he then began spending summers), and joined The Club in New York.

In 1950, while still a student of Hans Hofmann, Richenburg exhibited at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (later the Guggenheim). The following year was an inflection point in Richenburg’s career when Leo Castelli selected one of his works for the historic 9th Street Exhibition, and he began a long-term teaching position at Pratt Institute. His colleagues at Pratt included Franz Kline, Adolph Gottlieb, Jack Tworkov, Philip Guston, Milton Resnick and Tony Smith. By 1961, critic Irving Sandler declared that “Richenburg emerges as one of the most forceful painters on the New York Art Scene.” Thus began a career in which Richenburg’s paintings were widely exhibited and reviewed, and purchased by major collectors (e.g., Walter Chrysler, Joseph Hirshhorn) and museums (e.g., the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Modern Art).

Robert Richenburg was an artist whose creativity was central to his very being, and he had strong opinions about what it meant to be an artist. Some of his aphorisms included “to paint a painting is to kill a thought” and “to think while painting is a form of degradation.” Ultimately Richenburg’s fealty to the creative process would push him away from Pratt when he was pressured to resign for not restricting a pupil’s expression in their art. In a 2016 interview with the Brooklyn Rail, that very artist, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, would recognize Richenburg’s insistence on creative fidelity as one of her most formative moments as an artist.

Findlay Galleries has been the exclusive representative of the Richenburg estate since 2001 and we are honored to continue to explore and document his artistic achievements.

James MuldoonRobert Richenburg