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Robert Ryman Photo

Robert Ryman

American Painter and Conceptual Artist

Movements and Styles: Conceptual Art, Minimalism

Born: May 30, 1930 - Nashville, Tennessee

Died: February 8, 2019 - New York City

Robert Ryman Timeline

"Monet did a lot of waterlilies and also some haystacks, a number of haystacks, that were very similar, but very unique, and I think it's the same with me."

Robert Ryman Signature

Summary of Robert Ryman

When Robert Ryman and his first wife Lucy Lippard were expecting their first child, the two went through a protracted search for the right name, leaving the unborn baby without a clear identity for several weeks, before they eventually settled on "Ethan." The absence of a name was fitting, given that many of Ryman's painted progeny are both untitled and noted for their absence of color due to his overwhelming use of white paint. Despite Ryman's difficulty in finding names for either his human offspring or his artwork, the paintings have endured and in latter years have raised his stature as one of the most important and committed figures of Minimalism, though his fame did not come as immediately during the 1960s as some of as his comrades in the movement. Nonetheless, Ryman's attachment to one idiom and its variations have proven remarkably resilient, allowing him to move away from content and instead raise larger questions about the nature of art and its exhibition.

Key Ideas

Though not as well-known as figures such as Frank Stella, Sol LeWitt, or Dan Flavin, Ryman is nonetheless one of the pioneers of Minimalist painting, whose works attempt to empty the painting of content - and color - in order to focus almost entirely on form and process, an idiom in which he has continued to work for some sixty years, long past the demise of Minimalism as a cutting-edge movement. He thus might be termed one of the movement's most committed adherents.
Like much Minimalist art, Ryman's work often asks the viewer to reconsider larger questions about the work of art - its placement within the gallery, the figure-ground relationship, its manufactured qualities vs. the hand of the artist, its permanence and boundaries, and others, and in many ways his paintings become more like objects than flat images.
Ryman's works are nearly universally characterized by his wholesale use of white paint - almost to the exclusion of all other hues - which tends to be worked extremely thoroughly to give the surfaces a varied, almost tectonic, three-dimensional quality, so that his working process becomes plainly visible, a technique that can be traced to his formative experiences viewing Abstract Expressionist works.
Robert Ryman Photo

Robert Ryman was born in Nashville, Tennessee. After finishing high school in 1948, he matriculated to the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute (now Tennessee Tech) in Cookeville, where he studied the saxophone. The following year, he enrolled at the George Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville, now part of Vanderbilt University.

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Robert Ryman
Interactive chart with Robert Ryman's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
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Show influences

Artists

Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Mark RothkoMark Rothko
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Barnett NewmanBarnett Newman

Personal Contacts

Dan FlavinDan Flavin
Sol LeWittSol LeWitt
Eva HesseEva Hesse

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
Influences on Artist
Influences on Artist
Robert Ryman
Robert Ryman
Years Worked: 1955 - present
Influenced by Artist
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Fernanda GomesFernanda Gomes

Personal Contacts

Lucy LippardLucy Lippard

Movements

Conceptual ArtConceptual Art
MinimalismMinimalism

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Anna Souter

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Peter Clericuzio

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Anna Souter
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Peter Clericuzio
Available from:
First published on 20 Dec 2016. Updated and modified regularly. Information
[Accessed ]