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Jules Olitski

Jules Olitski

Ukrainian, American, 1922 - 2007

Jules Olitski was a Ukrainian, American artist known for his influence in the development of Color Field painting. He was born in Snovsk, Ukraine in 1922 but the following year, at one year old, his family moved to Brooklyn, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts and Master of Arts in Education at New York University. In the late 1950s, he began exhibiting in New York, including a solo show at the French & Co. Gallery where his work attracted the attention of renowned art critic Clement Greenberg.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Olitski’s paintings defined Color Field Painting. His work emphasizes the material, surface, and strength of colour by illuminating illusions of depth. He rejected any recognizable imagery or narrative and, instead, harnessed the capability of pure colour. His work displays paint in a dematerialized state that he achieved by applying it to unprimed canvases with an industrial sprayer. Colours appear to be floating in air instead of anchored to a canvas. With his technique, he achieved subtle gradations and an interesting interaction between colour and light.

His work was selected to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale in 1966. In 1969, a solo exhibition of his work was held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and a retrospective was held at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri. His work is held in the collections of the MoMA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim Museum in New York, NY, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., among many others.