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Leon Berkowitz

(1911 - 1987)
Leon Berkowitz was born in Philadelphia in 1911. He was a founding member of the Washington Color School, an artistic movement which became associated with Washington, D.C. painters. His paintings evolved from luminous geometric abstractions to fields of brilliant modulated color.

Berkowitz earned a BFA from the University of Pennsylvania and continued his studies in New York, Paris, and Florence. He founded the Washington Workshop Center of the Arts in 1945 and taught there from 1945 - 1965. The workshop was established to make Washington a serious place for the growth of artistic culture through the exchange of artistic ideas.

Other teachers at the Workshop who became leaders of the Washington Color School were Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Gene Davis.

Berkowitz and his wife traveled extensively from 1956 to 1964. Berkowitz used that time to further his artistic and spiritual explorations. He painted and exhibited in England, Spain, Greece, Wales, and Jerusalem. Returning permanently to Washington in 1964, he joined the faculty of the Corcoran School of Art. He was promoted to head of the Painting Department in 1969.

Berkowitz had solo exhibitions at the Corcoran Museum of Art in 1969 and in 1973, as well as numerous solo shows at private galleries in Washington,D.C. and New York City. His works are in the permanent collections of the Corcoran, the Phillips Collection, and the MOMA in New York.

Much of Berkowitz's work is a reaction to the work of the Abstract Expressionist School in New York. Berkowitz was never comfortable with the abstract expressionist painters' dependence on internal psychological states. Berkowitz felt he needed to take inspiration from some external authority, rather than an exclusively internal one. In Berkowitz's own words, "I wanted to work in direct response to nature".

Berkowitz's later paintings marry form and structure with color and light. As light penetrates through the layers of thinly applied paint crystalline structures emerge. Berkowitz challenges the viewer to look INTO the color rather than AT the color. Berkowitz restores to color a "depth of vision" in his best work, and in those depths the viewer discovers the natural forms in the universe - sea, sky, and earth.


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