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 Robert Ryman  (1930 - )

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Lived/Active: New York/Tennessee      Known for: non objective-minimal to zero

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BIOGRAPHY for Robert Ryman
1930 (Nashville, Tennessee)
New York/Tennessee

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Robert Ryman was born in Nashville, Tennessee on May 30, 1930.  He comes from a middle-class family; his father was a business man, his mother a amateur pianist.  She fostered his early interest in music which was in the area of jazz.  He studied the saxaphone for two years at Tennessee colleges.  He attended the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Cooksville, Tennessee from 1948 to 1949 and the Peabody College for Teachers in Nashville from 1949 to 1950.  He also served in the United States Army from 1950 to 1952 after which he moved to New York City.

When he arrived in Manhattan in 1952, he had no idea he would become a painter since he knew virtually nothing about visual art.  Wandering around New York like a tourist, he started to explore the city's art museums, and eventually bought some art supplies and tried painting.  He soon gave up music entirely.  He worked as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art where he met fellow artists Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin and where he found ample time to study the modern masters.  He was especially influenced by Cezanne, Picasso and Matisse and Mark Rothko.  His last job was in the Art Division of the New York City Public Library, where he fleshed out his knowledge of art history.

Ryman wanted to discover something that would be a new way of seeing.  That involved a gradual withdrawal of some aspects of painting in order to focus on others.  Color was suppressed, gradually, over time, until he was only painting with white, in all its possible shapes, forms, thickness, etc.  His visual purity and unwavering pursuit of his original artistic ideals continue to command respect.

Written and submitted by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

Sources include:
White Magic by Nancy Grimes in Art News, Summer 1986
Drawing Now by Bernice Rose, Catalogue of the Museum of Modern Art, New York
Who's Who in American Art, R.R.Bowker 1980

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Painting with the idea of representing nothing at all, not even that which could be called non-objective or abstract, Robert Ryman calls his work experiences, an attempt "to paint the paint."

He was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and studied at the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in Corkville, Tennessee and then at the George Peabody College for Teachers where he studied music. He served two years in the Army in the Korean War and in 1952, moved to New York where he studied with Lenny Tristano to become a jazz musician.

From 1953 to 1960, he worked as a guard at the Museum of Modern Art and then worked at the New York Public Library in the Art Division. In 1961, he quit to become a full-time painter and set-up his studio in New York City. Although he has been a minimalist and uses little color, his technique varies because his hand is obvious.

Robert Spees has sent the following quotations of Robert Ryman to

"There is never any question what to paint, but how to paint."

"The use of white in my paintings came about when I realized that it didn't interfere. It's a neutral color that allows for clarification of nuances in paintings. It makes other aspects of painting visible that would not be so clear with the use of other colors."

"When I first saw a Rothko painting, it was at the Museum of Modern Art. ...I didn't know exactly what it was at first, but I immediately liked it, I could experience it."

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