Clyfford Still

American (Grandin, North Dakota, 1904 - 1980, Baltimore, Maryland)

After studying and teaching art in Washington State, Clyfford Still began his influential tenure (1946–50) on the faculty at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. There he turned a younger generation away from the social realism of the early 20th century and toward gestural abstraction.

He then spent much of the 1950s in New York, but he eschewed any association with the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Still chose to develop his work independently, relying on the primacy of personal experience and the study and distillation of his own painting. Unlike most artists of his day, he ground and prepared his own pigments, applying them to canvas with both a palette knife and brush.

Still's mature style consisted of jagged-edged fields of pigment, heavily applied and worked into a thick, scabrous surface. He was an outspoken proponent of the idea that abstract painting could portray his inner psychic state, and he vigorously denied any direct associations with landscape imagery in his work: "I paint only myself, not nature." Nevertheless, Still's large-scale paintings often suggest primordial landscapes, rendered in the deep colors of the earth.

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

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