Richard Pousette-Dart

Richard Pousette-Dart


An American painter.  Richard Pousette-Dart (1916 – 1993) was a pioneer of the abstract expressionist movement.  Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, Pousette-Dart was raised in Valhalla, New York.  His father, Nathaniel Poussette, was a painter, writer, and lecturer on art; his mother, Flora Louise Dart, was a poet.

From 1936 to 1940, while living in New York City and working as an office clerk and bookkeeper, he devoted his nights to drawing and painting.  In 1940 he quit working and began as a full-time painter.  Unlike other abstract expressionists, he maintained his interest in myth and mystery as a key to experience throughout his career.  Pousette-Dart considered himself a religious painter attempting to uncover the fundamental nature of existence.

In 1947 Peggy Guggenheim gave Pousette-Dart a solo exhibition at her New York City gallery.  “I strive to express the spiritual nature of the Universe,” the artist wrote in the show’s catalog.  “Painting is for me a dynamic balance and wholeness of life; it is mysterious and transcending yet solid and real.”

In 1948 he became affiliated with the Betty Parsons Gallery.  A Solomon R. Guggenheim Fellowship in 1951 enabled him to paint for a year free of money worries.  In 1951 he was part of the New York School of Painting dubbed the “Eighteen Irascibles”. This group of artists protested the conservative nature of the selection process for the Metropolitan Museum’s first show of contemporary American art. Today, eleven of the eighteen are in the Metropolitan Museum’s permanent collection (William de Kooning, Jimmy Ernst, Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, Hans Hoffmann, Richard Pousette-Dart, etc.)   In November 1955, an article in Art News proclaimed Pousette-Dart as “one of the most original and solitary artists we have around.”

Retrospective exhibitions at the Whitney Museum in 1963 and 1974 paid tribute to Pousette-Dart’s stature in American painting of the post-World War II era.  In 1967, he received a National Endowment for the Arts award for individual artists.