American, 1916 - 1992
The prolific Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992) began his career at age eight, painting with the encouragement of his parents, particularly his father, who was a painter and wrote about art. Despite his minimal formal art education, he went on to become one of the youngest members of the New York Abstract Expressionists, and had a long and celebrated career.
In 1937, after a brief few months enrolled at Bard College, Pousette-Dart moved to Manhattan and worked as an assistant to the sculptor Paul Manship, working during the day and making his own art at night. Around this time he became acquainted with John Graham, whose book, System and Dialectics of Art, profoundly affected Pousette-Dart’s work, as well as informed his general philosophy about the role of art in society. It was Graham’s inspiration coupled with Pousette-Dart’s interest in Northwest Coast Native Americans that led him to begin working with totemic imagery. These cultures and symbols provided Pousette-Dart with a rich visual, cultural and historical platform for his early paintings such as Birds and Fish (1939) and Bird Woman (1939-40). Graham became a friend and mentor and even sat for Pousette-Dart as a photographic subject.
In 1941, Pousette-Dart had his first solo exhibition at The Artist’s Gallery in New York, a non-profit gallery that was sponsored by Josef Hoffman, Meyer Shapiro and James John Sweeney. He subsequently showed at Betty Parson’s, whose gallery roster included Ad Reinhardt, Theodoros Stamos, and Barnett Newman, and subsequently a laundry list of significant galleries of the time. He was also a member of the Eighth Street Club.
Pousette-Dart was featured in the seminal 1944 exhibition, Forty American Moderns at Howard Putzel’s 67 Gallery along with the likes of Milton Avery, Hans Hofmann, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Stuart Davis, Adolph Gottlieb, Morris Graves, Mark Tobey, and Mark Rothko. He was also featured alongside a number of the same artists in addition to William Baziotes, and Hedda Sterne in Peggy Guggenheim’s Spring Salon for Young Artists at her Art of This Century Gallery in New York.
Later in his life, Pousette-Dart embraced teaching, and taught at a number of different colleges, universities, and groups, finally rounding out his career by teaching at the Art Student’s League from 1980-1990, almost up until his death.
He was awarded and Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Bard College, and was the recipient of the inaugural Distinguished Lifetime Award in Art from the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation in 1981. In 1982 he was invited by the International Committee to exhibit in the main pavilion of the 40th Venice Biennale.