Robert Ryman b. 1930


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Robert Ryman is an American painter known for his monochromatic and minimalist paintings. Ryman studied at the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute and the George Peabody College for Teachers before enlisting in the US army. Following his service as an army reserve in the Korean War, Ryman moved to New York in 1953 to become a professional saxophonist. He took a day job as a security guard at the Museum of Modern Art, where he met co-workers and fellow contemporary artists Sol LeWitt and Dan Flavin. He became so captivated by the wave of Abstract Expressionist artists that he abandoned his musical path and continued to work at MoMA throughout the 1950s in order to be closer to painting. In 1955, he purchased art supplies and started experimenting with painting in his apartment.


Ryman’s paintings are considered to be minimalistic, but he prefers to be classified as a realist since he is not interested in conveying illusions. His paintings are mostly white or off-white, and his media ranges from canvas, linen, steel, aluminum and plexiglass to lumasite, vinyl, fiberglass, corrugated paper, burlap, newsprint and wallpaper. Ryman once stated, "There is never any question of what to paint, only how to paint." His most famous works are white-on-white, which change depending on the viewer’s location and surrounding light. In 2006, Ryman broke his auction record when Untitled (1962) sold for $8.6 million at Sotheby’s in New York.


Ryman has work featured in the permanent collections of various international institutions, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the MoMA, the San Francisco MoMA, the MCA in San Diego, the MoMA in Los Angeles, the Hamburger Bahnhofin in Berlin, the Arts Club of Chicago, the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., the Tate Modern in London, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Bonnefantenmuseum Maastrich in the Netherlands and the Hallen für Neue Kunst in Switzerland.


Related Categories: Minimalism, Monochrome Painting, Art of the 1960s, Conceptual Art, Post-War American Art, Impasto, Line, Form and Color, Large Brushstrokes/Loose Brushwork, Use of Wall, United States.