American Draftsman, Painter, and Sculptor
St. Paul, Minnesota
Suffern, New York
Summary of Richard Pousette-Dart
The painter Richard Pousette-Dart was the youngest member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists. His early work, marked by thick black contour lines and primitive themes, gave way to a freer abstract style in the 1940s, and to light-infused, pointillist paintings in the 1950s and 1960s. Although initially associated with the classic Abstract Expressionist angst, his work maintained a more transcendent and positive quality to it, increasingly focused on the expression of spiritual ideals in paint and color.
- Pousette-Dart's paintings are imbued with a sense of the spiritual and the mythic, evoking primordial forms and scenes.
- The artist's experiments with abstraction began with abstracted animal shapes, but soon evolved into formal explorations of textural handling, built-up surfaces, and intense color.
- Despite being present for the iconic Irascibles photo by Nina Leen in Life magazine, Pousette-Dart was one of the more independent artists within Abstract Expressionism, leaving New York City at the height of the movement and pursuing an optimistic, life-affirming art style to the end.
Biography of Richard Pousette-Dart
Richard Pousette-Dart was born on June 8, 1916 to educated, artistically-inclined parents in St. Paul, Minnesota. The family soon moved to Valhalla, New York, where Pousette-Dart spent most of his childhood. His father, Nathaniel Pousette, was an artist, collector, and writer, and his mother, Flora Dart, a musician, pianist, and poet. His early interests in art and music were strongly encouraged by his parents.
Important Art by Richard Pousette-Dart
This work, an abstracted study of an animal head, shows Pousette-Dart's interest in tribal and Jungian themes of confrontation and sacrifice. These themes are the main focus of his work in the 1930s and early 40s. The oval shape is repeated and modified to suggest eye, horn, egg, yolk, and fetus, all surrounded by his characteristic black contour line.
Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental is a large painting, considered by many to be the first mural-scale work of Abstract Expressionism. Evoking at once musical notes, cell-like squiggles, and the orbits of a planetary system, the work suggests the universal forms that inhere in the world at large. While the spiritual theme and many of the shapes are familiar from his 1930s work, Pousette-Dart's style has become more painterly and textured.
Pousette-Dart created a number of works in the early 1950s like this one, using pencil and white paint on canvas or board. Originally prompted by a tight budget, the approach shows Pousette-Dart exploring an ethereal side to the abstract grids of Picasso and his New York School heirs. One can discern the characteristic ovals, eye-shapes, and arcs, but rendered in a softer and more --- manner.
Influences and Connections
Useful Resources on Richard Pousette-Dart
- Richard Pousette-Dart: The New York School and BeyondOur PickBy Robert Mattison, Martica Sawin, John Yau Pepe Karmel, Sam Hunter, and Joanne Kuebler
- Richard Pousette-DartBy Lowery Stokes Sims and Stephen Polcari
- Richard Pousette-DartBy David Rimanelli / Artforum / March 2012
- Scenes of the East River by Richard Pousette-DartThe Examiner / December 5, 2011
- A Little Abstract, a Little Eccentric, and MoreOur PickBy Roberta Smith / The New York Times / August 17, 2007
- Richard Pousette-DartBy Jim Long / The Brooklyn Rail / December 10, 2005