Category Archives: Richard Diebenkorn

Richard Diebenkorn Sketchbooks at the Cantor Arts Center

Diebenkorn sketchbooks at Cantor

“Untitled”, from Sketchbook #10, p. 13 (1943-93), gouache and watercolor on paper.

Richard Diebenkorn:  The Sketchbooks Revealed will be on view at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University from September 9, 2015 through August 22, 2016.  The exhibition presents a collection of 29 of the renowned Bay Area artist’s sketchbooks, offering a rare insight into his process and inspirations. “This extraordinary collection is unprecedented in understanding an artist’s process so that students, scholars and the general public can better understand Diebenkorn’s style of working,” said Cantor Director Connie Wolf in ArtDaily.  “Presented together, the sketchbooks become a revelation of sorts, offering intimate access to the practice of a well-known, important and prolific artist. At Stanford they will serve for years to come as an extraordinary resource.”

Diebenkorn drew constantly and filled the sketchbooks over his long career. They include over a thousand drawings reflecting his interest in both nature and the built environment of California, as well as figure studies, portraits and experiments with abstract expressionist color fields.  Some were done quickly with broad strokes, while others are finely detailed.

The books have not been previously studied or published, and this exhibition marks the first time they are are on view to the public.  In an interview with Hyperallergic, Alison Gass, the Cantor’s Associate Director for Collections, Exhibitions and Curatorial affairs said, “As Diebenkorn kept these sketchbooks throughout his life and career putting one down only to pick it up years later, they are un-datable, but also each turn of the page offers a total surprise.”


“Untitled” from Sketchbook #2, p. 33 (1943-93), gouache, watercolor, crayon with graphite and collage on paper.

The sketchbooks range in scale and size from the spiral-bound to beautifully embossed journals.  They had been kept in a cardboard box in the home of Diebenkorn’s widow, Phyllis.  Before her death in January of this year, Phyllis donated the entire collection to Stanford.

The Cantor has taken apart one of the books and displayed it in its complete form so that viewers can get a sense of the intimacy of Diebenkorns’ visual diaries.  Because of the delicate nature of the sketchbooks, only a one-page spread of the rest of the books will be on view.  The museum has digitized all 29 books and made them available in the gallery on touchscreen kiosks, so visitors can leaf through each of the books digitally.

The exhibition also includes loans of some of Diebenkorn’s earliest works–all executed in the 1940s during his Stanford days and many on display to the public for the first time.

Also on view in the same gallery is the Cantor’s recent acquisition, an early Edward Hopper painting from 1913 entitled “New York Corner.”  Hopper made the work when he was just 31 and it is said to be the first work in his representational style.  Diebenkorn was influenced deeply by the work of Hopper, and viewers will have the rare opportunity to study the two artists’ work in close proximity.


“Untitled”, from Sketchbook #20, p. 45 (1943-93), crayon on paper.

Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) was born in Portland, Oregon and grew up in San Francisco, where he attended Stanford University (class of 1949).

Diebenkorn sketchbook at Cantor

“Untitled”, from Sketchbook #2, p. 26-27 (1943-93), graphite on paper.







Diebenkorn self portrait

“Untitled” from Sketchbook #2, p. 37 (1943-93), felt-tip market ink on paper

Richard Diebenkorn:  The Sketchbooks Revealed will be on view at The Cantor, on the Stanford University campus at 328 Lomita Drive at Museum Way from September 9, 2015 through February 9, 2016.  The museum is open Wednesday – Monday, 11 am – 5 pm.  Admission is free.

All images gifts of Phyllis Diebenkorn, @The Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.