The Artist


Enrolls at Stanford University; immerses himself in music, literature, history.

Joins Delta Kappa Epsilon.

Enlists in U.S. Marine Corps. Enrolls in art classes without comment from his parents; previously, his father had disapproved of his interest in art. Studies watercolor and art history with Daniel Mendelowitz, oil painting with Victor Mikhail Arnautoff.

Visits Palo Alto collector Sarah Stein’s house with Mendelowitz, first viewing of the art of Matisse and other French Modernists. Called to active duty through the Marine Corps’ V-12 Navy College Program. Marries Phyllis Antoinette Gilman in Santa Barbara. Through V-12 program, is transferred to UC Berkeley, where he is the only art student in uniform on campus. Studies drawing with Worth Ryder, art history with Eugen Neuhaus, painting with Cézanne specialist Erle Loran.

Leaves California for basic training on Parris Island, South Carolina.

Begins Officer Candidate School at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Transfers to Camp Quantico, Virginia, to complete OCS. Frequents the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. Absorbs works by Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, Dove, Hartley, Matisse, Mondrian, Picasso, others. Visits National Gallery in Washington, D.C., Museum of Modern Art in New York, Gallatin Collection at Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Fails to qualify for commission and is transferred out of OCS one week before graduation. Returns to status of private. Throughout his time as a Marine, Diebenkorn draws portraits of fellow soldiers. A commanding officer notices his talent and transfers him to the photographic department.

In addition to sketches and watercolors of Marines, daily life in barracks, and the surrounding landscape, Diebenkorn begins his first experimentations with abstraction.


Transfers to Camp Pendleton near San Diego, California; awaits deployment to Japan. Travels through Northern California, sees parents, visits San Francisco Museum of Art, where he buys November 1944 issue of Dyn magazine. Daughter, Gretchen, is born. Ships out to Honolulu, Hawaii. When Japanese surrender, returns to Camp Pendleton and receives honorable discharge. Moves with family into parents’ home in Atherton, California.