“Dick discussed ‘crudities’ with me. This is something like ‘ineptitudes or ‘awkwardness,’ which are retained in one’s work in order to avoid the slick, the ingratiating. It is a redirection to avoid getting easy… Diebenkorn retains the stumbling… it becomes crucial to the character of the work.”
– Wayne Thiebaud in a 1986 interview with Gerald Nordland
Richard Diebenkorn’s first mature paintings and drawings were created in an attic studio in his home in the amiable (and at that time affordable) bayside community of Sausalito, California. According to Phyllis Diebenkorn, the studio space was large, about thirty feet long, with a dividing wall that could be opened up; windows on one side faced northeast…by 1949 Diebenkorn was dedicating himself all-out to finding his way professionally as an abstract artist in a milieu where, by definition, advanced art relied on nonrepresentational techniques and vocabularies.
– Jane Livingtston, Diebenkorn Catalogue Raisonne, Postwar (1945-1946), Woodstock (1946-1947), and Sausalito (1947-1949)
Richard Diebenkorn, Untitled (CR no. 682) (detail), 1949
[This body of work] reveals his proclivities: loosely-defined blocky shapes, quirky meandering lines, hints of the Western landscape, unfussy overpainting, and sudden deviations that seem surprising yet almost predictable.
– Mark Lavatelli, Awkward Beauty, essay for Richard Diebenkorn: Early Color Abstractions, 1949-1955 catalogue at Van Doren Waxter
Throughout his career, Diebenkorn battled against his innate predisposition toward the refined, gracious, and elegant, creating a compelling tension that he exploited to maximum advantage… For Diebenkorn this meant overpainting some areas while leaving other sections ostensibly unfinished. He also used his brush to scrub on pigment that at times looked messy or retained chunky deposits, and his seemingly random forms and energetically meandering lines kept the whole from being too correct, finished, or resolved, while at the same time making the work feel alive.
– Scott A. Shields, Richard Diebenkorn: Beginnings, 1942-1955, Crocker Museum Catalogue