30 November 1904
; Grandin, United States *
23 June 1980
; New York, United States *
Clyfford Still was an American painter. He was one of the most original and influential first-generation Abstract Expressionists, being often credited for having shifted from representational painting to abstraction earlier than his colleagues.
Still was born in 1904 in Grandin, North Dakota and spent his childhood in Spokane, Washington and Bow Island in southern Alberta, Canada. Although Abstract Expressionism is identified as a New York movement, Still's formative works were created during various teaching posts on the West Coast. His work of this period is marked by an expressive figurative style used in depictions of the people, buildings, tools and machinery characteristic of farm life. By the late 1930s, he began to simplify his forms as he moved from representational painting toward abstraction. In 1941 Still relocated to the San Francisco Bay area where, following work in various war industries, he became a highly influential professor at the California School of Fine Arts, now known as the San Francisco Art Institute. He taught there from 1946-1950 - it was during this time when Still "broke through" to his mature style.
Still visited New York for extended stays in the late 1940s and became associated with two of the galleries that launched the new American art to the world — Peggy Guggenheim's The Art of This Century Gallery and the Betty Parsons gallery. Rothko introduced him to Peggy Guggenheim, who gave him a solo exhibition at her Art of This Century gallery in early 1946. Later that year, the artist returned to San Francisco, where he taught for the next four years at the California School of Fine Arts. He lived in New York for most of the 1950s, the height of Abstract Expressionism, but also a time when he became increasingly critical of the art world. In the early 1950s, Still severed ties with commercial galleries and in 1961 moved to a farm near Westminster, Maryland, removing himself further from the art world. He remained in Maryland with his second wife, Patricia, until his death in 1980. Following his death, all works that had not entered the public domain were sealed off from both public and scholarly view, closing off access to one of the most significant American painters of the 20th century. Still received the Award of Merit for Painting in 1972 from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, of which he became a member in 1978, and the Skowhegan Medal for Painting in 1975.
Still was also considered one of the foremost Color Field painters - his non-figurative paintings are non-objective, and largely concerned with juxtaposing different colors and surfaces in a variety of formations. Unlike Mark Rothko or Barnett Newman who organized their colors in a relatively simple way (Rothko in the form of nebulous rectangles, Newman in thin lines on vast fields of color), Still's arrangements are less regular.