Janet Bishop and Katherine Rothkopf.


From an essay; Imagining into another; John Elderfield.

“One of the most mysterious semi-speculations is, one would suppose, that of one Mind’s imagining into another.”
 (John Keats, Marginalia to Paradise lost.)


“ Matisse and Diebenkorn; Both started with the wish to record something close at hand, to make an image of something that rang true to their experience of it. Then in their different ways at their distant moments, Matisse and Diebenkorn came to the realization that to make a true statement in painting – something that spoke credibly of its subject in their own, individual voices – would require attending carefully to the language of their art; this obliged them to both pay attention and call attention to the means that they used. ……. Their most important practical commonality may be the quality of alertness, a mixture of judgment and vigilance, about what happens in the process of making a painting. “


“ …… the marks of the making – of erasure and revision as well as of assertion – were valued by both artists…” (similar to Cezanne)


the question of drawing; “drawing can aim either at the creation of form or at registering personal emotion” “it wasn’t a matter of either/or but of both”


Link these quotes; “both artists were mistrustful of occasions when, as the poet Elizabeth Bishop nicely put it, “ emotion too far exceeds its cause.”

“Keeping a painting in a state of flux…”

“to do so left room, even as each was willing the surface into shape, for something unexpected or unplanned; ‘something given to him’ and ‘scarcely his own’ precisely because it could not be willed …..”


T S Eliot,  “A poet cannot help being influenced, therefore he should subject himself to as many influences as possible, in order to escape from any one influence.”


Janet Bishop.


“Artist Wayne Thiebaud openly admired Diebenkorn’s gift for making the ordinary so special…. Diebenkorn was emphatic about the importance of the things he painted….”

“ Diebenkorn observed that for Matisse, circa 1905, Fauvism was in some ways a move towards abstract expressionism whereas for the Bay Area painters, fifty years later, ‘the new figuration was precisely the reverse’. Diebenkorn and his peers were coming off everything they had learnt from the Abstract expressionism and were applying it to representation. Figures had to be situated solidly in environments. Surfaces had to be ‘responsibly’ realized. Color could not be arbitrary.”

Both artists found reference in non-western art, Indian miniatures for example.


“ one question for Diebenkorn was how to handle faces. As he explained of his transition to figurative painting; ‘I had just put over ten years of abstract painting behind me…I wanted it both ways – a figure with a credible face – but also a painting wherein the shapes, including the face shape, worked with the allover power that I’d come to feel was a requirement of a total work. Clearly there was an inherent trap here and when I first got caught in it, I knew why Matisse sometimes left his faces blank. Matisse was relaxed in his centuries-old tradition of figure painting whereas I was not and it would have been a first day cop-out not to deal with the complete figure image- face and all.” (see portraits by Matisse; it is suggested that they are made with sensitivity and care, some dabbed on, some labored over)


Matisse comments about interiors with windows, one of his favorite subjects;  ‘ from the fact that for me the space from the horizon to the inside of the room is continuous and that the boat which passes lives in the same space as the familiar objects around me; the wall around the window does not create two worlds.’

“ Throughout his figurative years, too, Diebenkorn was nonhierarchical about foreground and background, inside and out.”


Diebenkorn, “ for a painter, I think there is nothing better than that his works are really looked at and seen.”


Breaking all the rules; the drawings of Richard Diebenkorn and Henri Matisse.

Jodi Roberts.


“Matisse and Diebenkorn dutifully put themselves through the paces of rigorous academic training, which included ample lessons in illusionistic drawing.”

 “Mimesis, however, was only a starting point. Late in life, Matisse confessed his career-long struggle against the pressures he had felt as a young artist to depict  ‘observations made from nature’ and to ‘copy nature stupidly’. He determined instead to find ‘ possibilities of expression beyond the literal copy’. ….. (Marguerite in three poses) ……this attempt to capture an identity that surpasses outward appearance resulted in compelling summary descriptions of  sisters salient traits, both physically and psychologically.”

“Diebenkorn came of age in the wake of the modernists… For the younger artist, the battle was not against tradition-bound teachers or peers but rather his own natural dexterity.”

“the declaration of drawings autonomy was a meaningful departure from historical norms” page 90.

“‘if I take a sheet of paper of a given size, my drawing will have a necessary relationship to its format’ ….’ I would not repeat this drawing on another sheet of different proportions, for example, rectangular instead of a square. Nor should I be satisfied with a mere enlargement, had I to transfer the drawing to a sheet of the same shape.’ “

pages 90, 91 and 92 about drawing directly from nudes; Diebenkorn,” I was drawing figuratively all the time that I was doing abstract paintings. I would draw the figure at night… as a sort of exercise in seeing.”

Also talks about artistic ethics and visual aesthetics.

“ it was a lesson in simultaneously looking backwards and forward that Diebenkorn thought valuable enough to pass along to younger generations of artists. John Hultberg, one of his students recalled that in Diebenkorn’s classes “ the idea was to break all the rules” a goal that, in practical terms, meant learning to draw ‘ the nude a la Matisse.’ ”


Richard Diebenkorn and Matisse, from Russia to Ocean Park.

Katherine Rothkopf.


Diebenkorn. “I think such influence is natural when a young painter discovers an older one. I’m against the cult of originality, though I don’t, of course like copycats.  But, after all, here’s this tremendous experience, and what’s the young painter suppose to do with it – stick it under the rug?”


Describes Diebenkorn seeing Matisse paintings in Paris and Russia. Diebenkorn writes about a ‘flattening out’ of his work when he returned to USA. (pages 120 and 122)

Clement Greenberg, “ Matisse is a superb draftsman, but he is still a better painter, and as a painter, he is an orchestrator of color areas before he is anything else.”

(UCLA 1966)

“ the physicality of his attack on the canvas is visible in his brushstrokes and in traces of scraping and repainting”

Diebenkorn, “ the only thing I require in a studio is daylight, and coming from a direction where I don’t get direct light, which really destroys things with the strong light that comes in. And also a light situation where I can somehow work without reflection on the surface of the canvas, and beyond that, I just accept the light (available)… if it’s a good paintings space, well the light that goes along with it.”


Describing Ocean Park #27, “One has the sense of entering a space filled with color and line, struggle and conclusion, and this feeling produces a composition that is mesmerizing and elegant. “

“ by using multiple layers of thin paint in the Ocean Park series, Diebenkorn found the freedom to experiment with his palette, producing an innovative array of chromatic combinations with which to explore light and structure. He would begin each canvas with a decision as to whether it was to have an overall cool or warm tone, and from there on it was a journey of trial and error. According to a Martin Facey, a former student of the artist’s who spent a great deal of time with him in his studio during the Ocean park years, Diebenkorn worked on each composition until he felt it was just right. He was always in the process of painting several large canvases at once, and he spent many hours and days contemplating his works in progress, looking for the next move, as if in a game of chess. “


“ Within the series a sense of time is present and evidence of the artists process still lingers”


Diebenkorn writing about Matisse; “Matisse has always surprised me, he’s so rich. One may expect, for example, a certain enhancing at a particular point, but then one looks and finds its all pretty drab there. He has this marvellous cool, he manages to resist all the jazz, yet he is a sumptuous a painter as there is. It’s the restraint coupled with the sensuousness that’s so utterly exceptional. It’s a musical thing: this tradition here, this color here, a wild surprise here that becomes, a little further up – well, just a gentle part of the harmony.”