The Royal Academy of Arts presents a survey of Richard Diebenkorn’s work to a UK audience for the first time in almost 25 years. Richard Diebenkorn is a focused exploration of the artist’s ever-changing career across four decades, shifting from the abstract to the figurative in both painting and works on paper. The exhibition comprises over 50 works with significant loans from public and private collections in the United States and Europe.

Celebrated as a post-war Master in his native United States, Diebenkorn (1922-1993) was strongly associated with California and the American West, where he lived and worked for most of his life. The quintessential colourist, his rich palette and compositions reveal a sensitivity to his environment and geography, capturing a sense of the light and space of the various locations in which he worked. For Diebenkorn, each work was a search for ‘rightness’, an attempt to solve complex and often self-imposed compositional and spatial problems, so that each work became a perfectly balanced resolution.

Diebenkorn created an exceptional and consistently intriguing body of work. During the early stage of his career in the 1950s he gained recognition as one of the West Coast’s leading abstract expressionist painters however, in 1955 he turned his attention to figurative painting, considered at the time as a surprising and unfashionable shift, although he achieved considerable success working in this genre. In 1967, having relocated to Southern California from the San Fancisco Bay Area, he returned to abstract paintings and drawings beginning a second long and highly successful period in this style. The exhibition highlights his staunch artistic independence and shows the ease of movement between styles, which were hallmarks of his career.

The exhibition is arranged to reflect the three distinct periods of his work. The first gallery explores Diebenkorn’s early abstract work, produced between 1950 and 1952 while he was enrolled in a Master of Art programme at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico and during a teaching post that followed in Urbana, Illionois between 1952 and 1953, as well as the earliest abstract works he produced in Berkeley, California. The second gallery focuses on works made during his return to figurative and landscape studies in Berkeley, California between 1956 and 1966, when he became known as a successful Bay Area Figurative artist. The last gallery displays his largest and perhaps most famous body of work, the non-objective Ocean Park series created between 1967 and 1988 in Southern California.

Despite his deserved recognition in the United States, Diebenkorn’s work has been less widely exhibited in Europe. The only major solo exhibition was at the Whitechapel Gallery in 1991 and he was elected an Honorary Academician in 1992, shortly before his death in 1993, a testament to the level of esteem in which he was held by fellow artists.


Richard Diebenkorn has been organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London. It is curated by Sarah C. Bancroft, curator of the exhibition Richard Diebenkorn: The Ocean Park Series (Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Orange County Museum of Art, and Corcoran Gallery of Art, 2011-12), with Edith Devaney, Exhibition Curator at the Royal Academy. The exhibition has the support of the Richard Diebenkorn family and the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.


The Terra Foundation for American Art is dedicated to fostering exploration, understanding, and enjoyment of the visual arts of the United States for national and international audiences. Recognising the importance of experiencing original works of art, the foundation provides opportunities for interaction and study, beginning with the presentation and growth of its own art collection in Chicago. To further cross-cultural dialogue on American art, the foundation supports and collaborates on innovative exhibitions, research, and educational programmes. Implicit in such activities is the belief that art has the potential both to distinguish cultures and to unite them.


The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from Sarah C. Bancroft, Edith Devaney and Steven Nash.

Merchandise A range of merchandise has been developed to accompany the exhibition and is available from the Royal Academy Shop. Products can also be purchased at the RA online shop: