Richard Diebenkorn Changed What it Means to be a California Artist

During the thirteen years he lived in Berkeley, artist Richard Diebenkorn made a big transition from Abstract Expressionism to figurative painting.

“It's one of his greatest contributions, in addition to the sheer beauty of his work,” said Timothy Anglin Burgard, the co-curator of Richard Diebenkorn: The Berkeley Years, 1953-1966, at the de Young Museum through Sept 29, 2013. “He bridged two styles that seemed unbridgeable.”

The exhibit has more than 130 of Diebenkorn's works, including Chabot Valley (1955), his first clearly representation landscape. Burgard said the shift incited controversy in the art world, with some people feeling Diebenkorn had betrayed a movement by leaving abstraction behind.

“They used words like 'traitor,'” Burgard said. “This was during the Cold War and the mentality was you're either with us or against us.”

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