A Living Legend Of Original Print Making
"The elements that remain a large part of my imagery... mysterious windowless houses, backyard fences, trees leafless in the off-season… My work remains unpopulated because I can then become as if the lone inhabitant, and when the work leaves my hands, who stands before it becomes for a moment me, alone, there."
Robert Kipniss (born Brooklyn, New York, February 1, 1931) is an American painter and printmaker. His paintings, lithographs and mezzotints share stylistic characteristics and subject matter and typically depict trees, landscapes and some interiors, frequently with a landscape beyond. No human figures are present, and all forms are reduced to essentials. Kipniss' use of exceptionally subtle tones and hues creates an overall atmospheric effect. His works have been described as conveying solitude and inward experience.
Kipniss studied at the Art Students League in 1947, Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio from 1948-50, and the University of Iowa, receiving a BA degree in English literature in 1952, and an MFA in painting and art history in 1954. Although he has painted in oil throughout his life, Kipniss focused on stone lithography during his early career, and has predominantly worked in Mezzotint since the early 1990’s.
Considered one of the greatest living American printmakers, with a professional career that spans seven decades and work that can be found in over 170 museums including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH; The British Museum, London; the Albertina, Vienna; the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, London; The Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and the Art Institute of Chicago.
Kipniss was elected to the National Academy of Design in 1980, and to the Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, London, in 1998. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of American Graphic Artists and The Artists Fellowship. He has also received the Speicher-Hassam Purchase Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, as well as Honorary Doctorates from Wittenberg University and Illinois College.
Stone lithographs & Mezzotint Etchings
Kipniss's first lithographs were done in black and white, but by 1970 he was also working in color. He taught himself to lay in delicate light silvery tones on the surface of the limestone by maintaining an exceptionally sharp point on the lithographic pencil and drawing with no pressure other than the weight of the pencil itself. The delicate hues of his prints are of such extraordinary subtlety that it is only on careful examination that the viewer can recognize how complex they are, requiring as many as eight different plates to produce a single print. By 1990 Kipniss had completed about 450 editions of lithographs.
Kipniss stopped producing lithographs in the early 90s and began to work solely in the mezzotint medium. Mezzotint is an intaglio printmaking technique along with etching and drypoint, in which the artist begins with a rocked copper plate. If the plate were to be inked and printed at the initial stages, it would register to the paper as carbon black. To draw out the lightness in the image, the artist must carefully scrape and burnish away the copper plate’s ability to hold ink. This process is exceedingly time consuming, but results in a range of tonality. Over time, he sought narrower ranges of mid-tones while still bringing out the rich dark characteristics of the mezzotint. Kipniss, who is still actively producing Mezzotints, is considered a true master of the technique.
“I may be painting trees and houses, but when I look at them, that’s not what I see. I see an atmosphere, a moment, a quickly passing experience that I’m trying to capture. My art is an art of intensity, of delving, of exploring the soul.”
From the Artist...
"One thing I have most wonderfully learned is that the greatest reward for making art is making art. The life of an artist is about the art. In the beginning, getting a career started was very challenging, mostly because there was no sure way to do it, no rules, no guideposts; it was with trial and error that I gradually became established. Instinctively I knew that painting and exhibiting were the only essentials I needed, and whatever difficulties I encountered along my path, there was always the reassurance of working and learning.
My first one-artist show was in a 57th Street gallery in 1951, which was then the heart of the New York art world. Exhibiting and success are not the same and this first show made a very modest ripple. I was working and showing right from the start, and it never occurred to me to wonder if I would be successful or not. I was working and had become a small part of the art world. Life was good.
From just before I began regarding painting as a serious life pursuit I had started writing with the conviction I would spend my life as a poet and a fiction writer. A year later I realized that while I had enjoyed painting as a past-time it would now share my desire to write as the focus of my energies for the rest of my life.
For about ten years my painting was lyrical, energetic, filled with bright color and charged with exuberance. At the same time my writing was dark, angry, at times a bit surreal, and often painful to create. When I stopped writing for a while in the early 1960s my paintings took on the characteristics of my former writing, and became infused with anger, a dark monochromatic palette, and occasionally slightly surreal themes: the added gravitas became immediately apparent. It was only a few years after this that my inner lyricism began to re-surface and meld with the darkness; this was the beginning of my mature style. Unexpectedly, my career took off. I have lived my life as I dreamed of doing as a young man."
Selected Public Collections
Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, The Fine Arts Museums of San
Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor
Albertina Museum, Vienna, Austria
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Arkansas State University Permanent Collection, State University, Arkansas
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Art Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke, Virginia
Art Students League of New York, New York, New York
Bates College Museum of Art, Lewiston, Maine
The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts
Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, Massachusetts
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, Maine
The British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York
Richard F. Brush Art Gallery, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY
The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Canton Art Institute, Canton, Ohio
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Century Association, New York, New York
The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio
Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio
Coos Art Museum, Coos Bay, Oregon
De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, Lincoln, Massachusetts
Cornell Fine Arts Museum, Winter Park, Florida
Davis Gallery, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, New York
The Denver Art Museum, Denver, Colorado
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
Dubuque Museum of Art, Dubuque, Iowa
Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin
Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York
Federal Reserve Board Fine Arts Program, Washington, D.C.
Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England
Flint Institute of Arts, Flint, Michigan
Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, South Carolina
Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, Massachusetts
The Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York
The Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Hofstra University Museum, Hempstead, New York
The Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee
Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, Indiana
Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, Stanford,
Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, The State University of New
Jersey, New Brunswick
Joel and Lila Harnett Museum of Art, University of Richmond Museums,
Lakeview Museum of Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Illinois
Lawton Gallery, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Green Bay, Wisconsin
Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California
Maier Museum of Art, Randolph College, Lynchburg, Virginia
The McNay Art Museum, San Antonio, Texas
Memorial Art Gallery, Univ. of Rochester, Rochester, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York
Minnesota Museum of American Art, Saint Paul, Minnesota
Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, North Carolina
The Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, Mississippi
Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, New Jersey
The Morgan Library & Museum, New York, New York
Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York
Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Cali, Colombia
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
National Academy of Design, New York, New York
National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
The New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Connecticut
New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, Louisiana
The New York Public Library, Print Collection, New York, New York
Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando, Florida
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Pinakothek der Moderne, Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, Munich
Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon
Royal Society of Painter-Printmakers, London (diploma piece); housed at the
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto, Pennsylvania
Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri
Springfield Museum of Art, Springfield, Ohio
Syracuse University Art Gallery, Syracuse, New York
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Washington
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York
Wichita Falls Museum and Art Center, Wichita Falls, Texas
Wittenberg University, Springfield, Ohio
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut