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Artists Ad Reinhardt
Ad Reinhardt Photo

Ad Reinhardt

American Painter

Movements and Styles: Abstract Expressionism, Geometric Abstraction

Born: December 24, 1913 - Buffalo, New York

Died: August 30, 1967 - New York, New York

Ad Reinhardt Timeline

Quotes

"Art is art-as-art and everything else is everything else."
Ad Reinhardt
"The only way to say what abstract is, is to say what it is not."
Ad Reinhardt
"Painting cannot be the only activity of a mature artist."
Ad Reinhardt
"My painting represents the victory of the forces of darkness and peace over the powers of light and evil."
Ad Reinhardt
"As an artist I would like to eliminate the symbolic pretty much, for black is interesting not as a color but as a non-color and as the absence of color."
Ad Reinhardt
"I want to emphasize the idea of black as intellectuality and conventionality."
Ad Reinhardt
"My paintings are the last paintings one can make."
Ad Reinhardt

"As an artist I would like to eliminate the symbolic pretty much, for black is interesting not as a color but as a non-color and as the absence of color."

Ad Reinhardt Signature

Synopsis

Ad Reinhardt was a prominent American abstract artist, writer, critic, and educator. Although commonly associated with the Abstract Expressionists, his work had its origins in geometric abstraction, and, increasingly seeking to purify his painting of everything he saw as extraneous to art, he rejected the movement's expressionism. Although he was in turn rejected by many of his peers, he was later hailed as a prophet by Minimalists. His Black Paintings, which occupied him from 1954 until his death, are regarded as his crowning achievement, while the many cartoons he created that made fun of the art world brought him fame as a wry commentator.

Key Ideas

Ad Reinhardt is one of the few major American artists to have explored geometric abstraction and, unlike many of those Cubist- and Bauhaus-influenced artists who did, he firmly opposed attempts to put abstraction in the service of design - be it for the purposes of decoration, industrial design, or advertising.
His most famous series, the Black Paintings (1954-67), are all uniform, five-foot squares and are composed such that a ghostly Greek cross hovers, barely visible, in a mist of barely distinguished black and gray hues. Reinhardt felt they represented the ultimate in abstract painting - paintings that were concerned with art alone and bore no reference to anything outside themselves - not even to the hints of soul and angst in Abstract Expressionist pictures.
Although Reinhardt sought to remove all references to the external world from his pictures, he remained convinced that his art had the potential to affect social change. He also maintained an interest in various types of mysticism - something the viewer might appreciate in the struggle to comprehend the barely delineated forms in his Black Paintings (1954-67).

Biography

Ad Reinhardt Photo

Childhood

Adolph Frederick Reinhardt was born in Buffalo, New York, to a family of immigrants. The family settled in New York City soon after his birth. He excelled at school and exhibited an interest in the visual arts from an early age; in high school, he worked as an illustrator for the school's newspaper. An inveterate reader, he set his sights on the elite universities of the east coast and turned down several scholarships from art schools, opting instead for undergraduate studies in art history at Columbia University in New York, which he commenced in 1931.

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Ad Reinhardt Biography Continues

Important Art by Ad Reinhardt

The below artworks are the most important by Ad Reinhardt - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Study for a Painting (1938)
Artwork Images

Study for a Painting (1938)

Artwork description & Analysis: This early composition by Ad Reinhardt exhibits the artist's profound interest and understanding of the Cubist art of Pablo Picasso and George Braque. The palette is typical of the style and is comprised of four colors essential for a Cubist painting: black, white, brown, and gray. The abstract shapes are dynamically arranged on the flat surface where the biomorphic curves intermingle with hard edges and straight lines. This small gouache presents Reinhardt as a talented young artist with a gift for absorption of the most relevant styles of painting of the time.

Gouache on paper - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Untitled (1938)
Artwork Images

Untitled (1938)

Artwork description & Analysis: Painted in the same year as the Cubist gouache, this canvas presents quite a stark contrast with Reinhardt's earlier artistic pursuits. Here he is obviously quoting Stuart Davis, the American artist who was a key influence on young Reinhardt. The booming palette employed by the artist has turned this arrangement of rectangular shapes into a feast of color - hot pink, orange, yellow, and red comprise a luminous symphony that inevitably engages the viewer. Later in his life Reinhardt abandoned such bright pigments. This example yet again testifies to the amazing versatility possessed by the young artist in terms of adopting and adapting various styles of modernist painting.

Oil on canvas - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Abstract Painting, Red (1952)
Artwork Images

Abstract Painting, Red (1952)

Artwork description & Analysis: This is one of the paintings belonging to the Red Series. Here the artist immersed himself completely into the exploration of the color red, one of the most expressive among the primary colors. This composition is abstraction par excellence; the squares are arrayed into a rigid pattern with the variations of red hues defining its strict geometry. The artist himself maintained throughout his life that these paintings were completely free of narrative. One cannot help but wonder, however, whether a list of references could be decoded in this canvas due to its expressive palette, impressive size (9'x3.5'), and the almost totemic outline of the squares.

Oil on canvas - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

More Ad Reinhardt Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Ad Reinhardt
Interactive chart with Ad Reinhardt's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian
Kazimir MalevichKazimir Malevich
Stuart DavisStuart Davis
Josef AlbersJosef Albers
Francis CrissFrancis Criss

Personal Contacts

Meyer SchapiroMeyer Schapiro
Thomas MertonThomas Merton

Movements

SuprematismSuprematism
ConstructivismConstructivism
CubismCubism
ExpressionismExpressionism
PurismPurism

Influences on Artist
Ad Reinhardt
Ad Reinhardt
Years Worked: 1935 - 1967
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Donald JuddDonald Judd
Barnett NewmanBarnett Newman
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Frank StellaFrank Stella

Personal Contacts

Thomas B. HessThomas B. Hess

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
MinimalismMinimalism
Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
Monochrome PaintingMonochrome Painting
Hard-edge PaintingHard-edge Painting

Useful Resources on Ad Reinhardt

Books

Websites

Articles

Videos

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.
Ad Reinhardt Recomended resource

By Yves-Alain Bois

Ad Reinhardt

By Michael Corris

Ad Reinhardt: Last Paintings

By Heinz Liesbrock, Ad Reinhardt

More Interesting Books about Ad Reinhardt
Ad Reinhardt Papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art

Provides Access to Ad Reinhardt's Writings, Drawings, and Printed Materials from the Smithsonian Archives

The Museum of Modern Art Collection: Ad Reinhardt Recomended resource

Features a Biography and an Image Gallery of Works by the Artist

Opening Lines: The Drawings of Ad Reinhardt Recomended resource

By Prudence Peiffer
Artforum
February 2012

Tall, Dark, and Fragile

By Holland Cotter
The New York Times
August 1, 2008

Ad Reinhardt, Newspaper Cartoonist: The Abstract Double Agent

By Richard B. Woodward
The New York Times
December 21, 2003

Reinhardt Retrospective Explores the Vital Absent Recomended resource

By Michael Brenson
The New York Times
May 31, 1991

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Content compiled and written by Ivan Savvine

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Ivan Savvine
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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