Rivers, Larry

Rivers, Larry Biography

American painter whose works frequently combined the vigorous, painterly brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism with the commercial images of the Pop art movement.

Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg was born in New York City, but changed his name to Larry Rivers when he was 17 years old. His first love was music, and by age 12 he was performing as a jazz saxophonist at resorts in New York's Catskill Mountains. He studied at the Juilliard School of Music from 1944 to 1945. His friendship with American artist Jane Freilicher inspired him to begin painting in 1945.

Rivers studied in New York City with influential abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann in 1947 and 1948 and at New York University under American painter William Baziotes in 1948. Despite his training in abstraction, Rivers was always interested in figurative drawing, and this helped him establish an identity independent of the prevailing abstract expressionist movement. His skill in drawing is evident in his portraits and figure studies of the early 1950s, but he often gave these images a fragmented appearance by layering thin washes of color over them.

Rivers first gained attention with send-ups of such well-known paintings as Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) by American painter Emanuel Leutze. Rivers's version by the same name (1953, Museum of Modern Art, New York City) took an image familiar to American schoolchildren and revitalized it with broad, vigorous brushstrokes.

Rivers' works were characterized by competent draftsmanship, a fine sense of colour, and the frequent use of complex, fragmentary, and multiple views. Beginning in 1961, commercial images, such as cigarette packages, figured prominently in his pictures, which, after 1963, frequently had elements of collage, construction, and sculpture

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