Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum opens door on elusive artist


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What we know about the artist Clyfford Still has been enough to position him as one of the leading figures in postwar American painting. What we don’t know, however, fills volumes and vaults.

Still dropped out of the commercial scene in 1951, not long after he stunned the art world with his huge canvases covered in craggy shapes, intensely-hued and fissured with thrusting verticals he called “lifelines.” “Still makes the rest of us look academic,” remarked Jackson Pollock.


Still exhibited and sold his work only rarely after retreating to rural Maryland in 1961. When he died in 1980, his will specified that the entirety of his estate (which amounted to over 90% of his life’s work) would be given to an American city that would create permanent quarters for its exhibition and study.

The just-opened Clyfford Still Museum in downtown Denver is an elegant concrete and cedar structure resonant with the visceral quality of the artist’s work. Inside are more than 2,000 paintings and works on paper, as well as the artist’s archives, sure to answer questions that have nagged at art historians for years.

What did Still’s early work look like, leading up to his signature style? What was he up to in his barn studio those final two decades?

Read more on the new Denver museum and Clyfford Still.

-- Leah Ollman