Ad Reinhardt was one of the most relentless defenders of the purity of abstraction. “The one object of fifty years of abstract art is to present art-as-art and as nothing else…making it…more absolute and more exclusive—non-objective, non-representational, non-figurative, non-imagist, non-expressionist, non-subjective,” he argued in 1962.1 For Reinhardt, this manifested as an evolving effort to strip his paintings of everything external to the fundamental fact of paint on canvas. His unyielding stance and the work it generated situate him as an oppositional, often antagonistic, member of the New York School.

Born and raised in New York, Reinhardt studied art history and philosophy at university in the 1930s, and began painting around 1936. His aesthetic and conceptual foundations include Cubism, Constructivism, and the austere compositions of de Stijl co-founder Piet Mondrian. While many of his peers experimented with figurative work influenced by Surrealism, Reinhardt, by contrast, worked in an abstract mode from the very beginning of his career. In the late 1940s, he became deeply interested in Chinese and Japanese painting, Islamic art, and, importantly, East Asian philosophy.

Except for his service in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Reinhardt earned much of his living as a teacher. He read, wrote, and traveled extensively. Possessor of a mordant wit—which he turned on himself and his fellow artists—and great draftsmanship skills, he also produced cartoons satirizing the art world or expressing his socialist political views.

Reinhardt felt that art should be divorced from everyday life and viewed art making as a pure, disinterested, and ethical pursuit. His early painting and collage features bold, geometric shapes and patterns that he pared down into allover compositions of staccato marks in an increasingly limited range of colors. These eventually led to monochromatic blue and red paintings ordered by strict geometric arrangements and, finally, to his Black Paintings. These paintings appear to be unmodulated fields of black, but are in fact subtle compositions incorporating intensely dark shades of red, blue, and green. Reinhardt continued refining his Black Paintings until his untimely death in 1967, considering them the resolution to his quest for “the strictest formula for the freest artistic freedom.”2 His focused body of work and his emphasis on restrained and repeating compositions make him a progenitor of Minimalism and Conceptual art.

Introduction by Karen Kedmey, independent art historian and writer, 2017

  1. Barbara Rose, ed. Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt. (New York: The Viking Press, 1975), 53. 

  2. Barbara Rose, ed. Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt. (New York: The Viking Press, 1975), 52. 

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Introduction
Adolph Frederick "Ad" Reinhardt (December 24, 1913 – August 30, 1967) was an abstract painter active in New York beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s. He was a member of the American Abstract Artists and was a part of the movement centered on the Betty Parsons Gallery that became known as abstract expressionism. He was also a member of The Club, the meeting place for the New York School abstract expressionist artists during the 1940s and 1950s. He wrote and lectured extensively on art and was a major influence on conceptual art, minimal art and monochrome painting. Most famous for his "black" or "ultimate" paintings, he claimed to be painting the "last paintings" that anyone can paint. He believed in a philosophy of art he called Art-as-Art and used his writing and satirical cartoons to advocate for abstract art and against what he described as "the disreputable practices of artists-as-artists".
Wikidata
Q345569
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Introduction
An abstract painter considered influential in the development of Minimalism. Though a contemporary of the Abstract Expressionists, he rejected biomorphism and developed paintings based on geometry, specifically grids, often using a single color in gradations. His last works were a series of all-black canvases.
Nationality
American
Gender
Male
Roles
Artist, Abstract artist, Collagist, Painter
Names
Ad Reinhardt, Adolph Frederick Reinhardt, Adolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt, Adolph Dietmar Friedrich Reinhardt, Adolph F. Reinhardt, Adolph Frederick. Reinhardt
ULAN
500013982
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License