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Clyfford Still

American, 1904–1980

1957-D, No. 1, 1957

Oil on canvas
113 x 159 inches (287 x 403.9 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1959

Clyfford Still did not like anyone who tried to interpret his work, including art critics, art historians, patrons, and museum curators. He did not believe that most people understood or properly appreciated his paintings, and wanted them to remain under his personal control. This resulted in his rejection of offers to buy his work, refusing awards and honors, and declining invitations to exhibit both in individual and group shows.

Still did not like his paintings to be separated from one another or exhibited with the work of other artists because he felt they could only be understood as part of a whole—the whole being the evolution of his entire life's work. He said, "Each painting is an episode in a personal history, an entry in a journal," and "My work in its entirety is like a symphony in which each painting has its part." His titles, which contain dates, letters, and numbers that signify the order in which paintings were created, support this explanation.

Gordon Smith, director of the Albright Art Gallery (renamed the Albright-Knox when the 1962 addition was completed) from 1955 to 1973, along with the Gallery’s important patron Seymour H. Knox, Jr., worked hard to win Still's trust, and finally convinced him of their sincere interest in his work. Still allowed them to purchase two paintings, and agreed to a rare retrospective exhibition that opened in 1959. Pleased with Buffalo's reception of his work, Still donated thirty-one paintings to the Albright-Knox in 1964.

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