Diebenkorn's Muted Palette

Diebenkorn's Muted Palette

A new blog from our new SOS blogger, Rebecca Moss Guyver...


Earlier this week I travelled to London to see the Richard Diebenkorn show which is at the Royal Academy until the 7th of June.  https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/richard-diebenkorn

I lived in the Bay Area of San Francisco, am familiar with Diebenkorn’s work and recognize the light that is so beautifully reflected back in his paintings. For me it’s the colour, the particular colours that Diebenkorn uses that draw me in and bring me back for a second look.

It turns out that those particular colours must be difficult to reproduce. The catalogue that accompanies this exhibition fails to capture Diebenkorn’s colour accurately; the paintings that made me hold my breath die on the page. You have to SEE a Diebenkorn painting to feel it.

This visit to see the Diebenkorns was actually my second visit. This time my husband and daughter were with me. We all moved around separately but all stopped longest in the room with the Ocean Park series. When we came together my daughter asked a simple but unexpected question, "do you think this painting is happy or sad?"

I stood opposite it and we both agreed that it is a sad painting. Intuitively you might think that a painting that employs muted, pastel colours would not be sad. When I think of pinks, light blues and yellows I think of infants and Easter and spring flowers.  In fact, the first words that come into my head when I think of pastel colours are: romantic, feminine, delicate, spring, milky… but if I were to describe Diebenkorn’s #130 of the Ocean Park Series I might call it sad (even nostalgic), but I would certainly also say it was strong. We wondered what makes a sad painting and whether everyone would have the same response.

Rebecca Moss Guyver



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