A look at the collection: Richard Diebenkorn, Albuquerque #7

The Reinhard Ernst Collection also includes the work Albuquerque #7 by the painter Richard Diebenkorn. He began his studies at Stanford University in 1940 and initially painted very realistic pictures – influenced by artists such as Edward Hopper.

He subsequently also studied at the University of California and at the California School of Fine Arts after his military service in 1946 – a college in San Francisco, which became a centre of free artistic creativity away from traditional methods after World War II. The impressions Diebenkorn gathered during these years inspired him profoundly and led to a change in his style.

The extent to which Diebenkorn turned towards abstract expressionism can be seen in the Albuquerque Series. The artist lived with his family in Albuquerque, New Mexico from 1950 to 1952. This is where he created more than 40 oil paintings, which placed Richard Diebenkorn in the focus of the avantgarde scene. This period in the desert highlands was an especially productive and artistically fruitful stage in Diebenkorn’s work. He was subsequently considered the leading abstract expressionist on the US west coast.

His composition of the almost two-metre high painting is divided into four horizontal sections, which are derived from the colours of New Mexico’s landscape: black, dark red, pastel green and anthracite. The artist collected his perceptions of his immediate surroundings and combined them in a rectangular aspect ratio. Individual areas were overpainted, colour sequences overlap. Abstracted, calligraphic shapes found their place in the most prominent image area and are demarcated by black contours. Albuquerque #7 is among the most vividly coloured works in the series.

Richard Diebenkorn died in Berkeley, California in 1993 at the age of 70. In his obituary, the New York Times described him as “a leading American artist of the post-war period, whose deeply lyrical abstractions evoke memories of the shimmering light and wide-open spaces of California”.

Richard Diebenkorn, Albuquerque #7, 1951, oil on canvas, © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation