Vivian Springford

American, 1914 - 2003

Untitled (Expansionist Series), c. 1979, acrylic on canvas, 54 1/2 x 56 1/8 inches

Untitled, c. 1959, acrylic on canvas, 57 1/2 x 66 inches

Untitled, 1963, oil on canvas, 70 x 84 inches

Untitled, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 49 x 51 inches

Untitled, c. 1975, acrylic on canvas, 60 x 60 inches


Click here to watch a short video of an exhibition at Taylor | Graham, October 2014, entitled Vivian Springford, Stain Paintings, 1960-80 In the 1950's Springford received critical acclaim for her Abstract Expressionist black paintings that revealed an acute understanding of Chinese calligraphy which she melded into her action paintings.


Vivian Springford, an artist best known for her vivid stained color field paintings, is having a resurgence. The reclusive painter began as a portraitist, but then evolved under the influence of the New York School.  She was a close friend and studio-mate to Asian artist Walasse Ting. Through Ting, Springford became close friends with artists such as Pierre Alechinsky, Sam Francis, and Karel Appel.  The confluence of these various inspirations is apparent in her work.  Ting introduced her to Asian art and philosophy, which had an enormous influence on Springford. Springford’s early “black paintings” have a strong calligraphic influence. Visually different but philosophically similar, Springford's gesture and flow matured into her later colorful work. 

Springford’s stain paintings are expansive, and often seem to blossom out from one central point on the canvas, radiating into translucence.  Their scale is ambiguous; they feel both cosmic and microscopic. The varying densities of color make them feel as if they are pushing outward and evolving even as you stand in front of them. Springford’s layers and structures are light and ethereal, but are also grounded in the physical patterns of the universe or the human body. Her technique and color create depth without weight. There is a quiet dynamism in Springford’s work that is undeniable.

Springford was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and attended the Spence School in New York City. Her artistic education came predominantly from the Art Students League. The infamous art critic Harold Rosenberg helped Springford get her first show in 1960 at the Great Jones Gallery in New York.

After the 1960s, Springford became quite private with her work, and only participated in a few group exhibitions, despite her prior success. Later in her life, she suffered from macular degeneration, which left her legally blind by the mid 1980s.  Living in a small New York midtown hotel, she was rediscovered when a social worker introduced her body of work to a New York art gallery owner, who began exhibiting her paintings in 1998.