Getty News, Open Art: What Diebenkorn and Matisse Taught Me about the Hard Work of Making Art

A onetime student of Richard Diebenkorn’s recalls his love of Henri Matisse. Co-published with Zócalo Public Square

December 6, 2016
By Elyn Zimmerman

Richard Diebenkorn, Ocean Park #79, 1975, oil and charcoal on canvas, 93 x 81 in. (236.2 x 205.7 cm) © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

In 1966–67, I was an undergraduate at UCLA wanting to be in the fine art program. Since I had scored high in the sciences and had a mimetic drawing ability, I was placed in the medical illustration program—located in the same art building. Like the scene of the crossing train cars in Woody Allen’s Stardust Memories, I’d look across the halls to the painting and sculpture studios and fantasize about creative spirits effervescing like champagne bubbles around those rooms. Meanwhile, back at my desk I’d be drawing pieces of disassembled body parts.

A friend of a friend took pity and asked Sam Francis—who had a number of painting, drawing, and printmaking studios around Santa Monica—if he would loan one to a young aspiring painter. I had been using part of a friend’s garage to work in—not well lit, nor heated or with running water.

Continue reading