GOTTLIEB, Adolph (1903 – 1974)

Photo Adolph Gottlieb in his studio 1965

Adolph GOTTLIEB (1903 - 1974)


Adolph Gottlieb was born on March 14, 1903 and died on March 4, 1974. He was an American abstract expressionist painter, sculptor and printmaker.

Adolph Gottlieb is considered one of the first generation of the Abstract Expressionists movement. From 1920 till 1921 he studied at the Art Students League of New York, after which, having determined to become an artist he left high school at the age of 17 and worked his passage to Europe on a merchant ship.

He traveled in France and Germany for a year. He lived in Paris for 6 months during which time he visited the Louvre Museum every day and audited classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. He spent the next year travelling in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and other part of Central Europe, visiting museums and art galleries. When he returned, he was one of the most traveled New York Artists and he returned to study even more at the Art Students League, Parsons School of Design, Cooper Union and the Educational Alliance.

Gottlieb had his first solo exhibition at the Dudensing Galleries in New York City in 1930. During the 1920s and early 1930s he formed lifelong friendships with other artists such as Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko, David Smith, Milton Avery, and John Graham.

In 1935, he and nine others, including Ben-Zion, Joseph Solman, Ilya Bolotowsky, Louis Harris, Jack Kufeld, Mark Rothko, and Louis Schanker, known as “The Ten”, exhibited their works together until 1940.

Their championing of abstraction challenged the institutional status quo, catalyzing the spread of modern art in New York and setting the stage for Abstract Expressionism.

Beginning in 1956, at the height of Cold War anxieties, Gottlieb almost exclusively painted his celebrated Burst series, perhaps one of the most poignant allusions to the atomic blast in post-war art. This untitled work from 1967, originally exhibited at the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, in New York, continues from this series of works, in which Gottlieb would paint an orb-like shape in the sky, hovering above a ground of tangled calligraphic markings.

For years he explored variations of this dynamic binary in depth, dividing the canvas in two with an imaginary horizon in the centre. Gottlieb conceived of this pictorial landscape structure as elemental in its opposition, through which profound dualities could be considered, such as heaven and hell, cycles of creation and destruction, and life and death.

Throughout his career Adolph Gottlieb had 56 solo exhibitions and was included in over 200 group exhibitions.

Gottlieb suffered a major stroke in 1970 that left him paralyzed except for his right arm and hand. He continued to paint and to exhibit his art until his death in March 1974. He was buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery, Hawthorne, NY.

He was voted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1972.