Few painters capture the openness and light of California like Richard Diebenkorn. His bright and breezy paintings – some abstract, some figurative, some in-between – won him plenty of fans during the 20th century, even if the critics remained nonplussed.
In the 50s, when New York was exerting a strong gravitational pull with its distinctive brand of abstract expressionism, Diebenkorn offered something lighter and airier. And when tastes took a figurative turn in the 60s with the arrival of pop art, he went against the tide once again and switched back to abstraction.
Imperviousness to the whims of fashion has served his legacy well, and while he never reached the heights of Rothko or Pollock during his lifetime, there’s renewed interest in the artist two decades after his death. This month’s survey of his life’s work at the Royal Academy – the first in the UK for almost a quarter of a century – will further boost the profile of one of the 20th century’s most underrated artists.
Richard Diebenkorn opens 14 March at the Royal Academy of Arts