“Painting cannot be the only activity of a mature artist,” painter Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) once commented, and his life as a teacher, art historian, graphic designer, commercial artist, cartoonist, polemicist, art theorist, and social activist is ample testament to his commitment to that idea.
Born in Buffalo, New York, in 1913, Reinhardt committed himself to a life in art, and he was ambitious in gaining exposure to the best influences. He studied art history with Meyer Shapiro at Columbia University, and after taking his undergraduate degree in 1935 he quickly moved on to establish a series of affiliations that would bring him into contact with some of the leading lights of 20th-century art. He worked with Francis Criss and Carl Holty at the American Artists School, and his subsequent affiliation (at Holty’s invitation) with the American Abstract Artists group provided contact with emerging American abstractionists as well as prominent European artists such as Piet Mondrian and Fernand Léger. Reinhardt eventually went on to establish affiliations with the American Artists Congress, the Artists Union, and the National Academy of Design, among others. He published a series of art comics for the tabloid PM, wrote articles for the journals ARTnews and trans/formation, and used his art—both fine and applied—in his passionate engagement with anti-war and pro-labor causes.
Sefton P. Yellow Painting (Abstraction)Ad Reinhardt. JAMA. 2016;316(4):380-381. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.14395