Larry Rivers


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(b New York, 17 Aug. 1923; d Southampton, Long Island, NY, 14 Aug. 2002).

American painter, sculptor, printmaker, and designer, a leading figure in the revival of figurative art that was one aspect of the reaction against the dominance of Abstract Expressionism. He was a professional jazz saxophonist in the early 1940s and began painting in 1945, studying at the Hans Hofmann School, 1947–8, and then at New York University under Baziotes in 1948. His work of the early and mid-1950s continued the vigorous painterly handling associated with Abstract Expressionism, but was very different in character. Some of his paintings were fairly straightforwardly naturalistic, but others looked forward to Pop art in their quotations from well-known advertising or artistic sources, their use of lettering, and their deadpan humour. An example is Washington Crossing the Delaware (1953, MoMA, New York), based on the picture by Leutze. In the late 1950s and 1960s his work came more clearly within the orbit of Pop, sometimes incorporating cut-out cardboard or wooden forms, electric lights, and so on, but his sensuous handling of paint set him apart from other Pop artists. Occasionally he painted portraits (Mr Art (Portrait of David Sylvester), 1962, NPG, London). Rivers also made sculpture, collages, and prints, designed for the stage, acted, and wrote poetry.

Subjects: Art.

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