Peyton Wright Gallery is pleased to announce Leon Berkowitz: The Cathedral Paintings, an exhibition of works showcasing Berkowitz’s masterful use of color, line and depth.

The exhibition will open Friday, August 5, 2022 with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m. and run through Tuesday, September 6.

Leon Berkowitz (1911-1987)was born on 14 September 1911 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to parents Yettie (née Pries) and Bernard Berkowitz, Hasidic immigrants from Hungary.

He attended the University of Pennsylvania, the Art Students League of New York, the Corcoran College of Art and Design (where he later taught), and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière

With his first wife, the poet Ida Fox Berkowitz, and artist Helmut Kern, Leon Berkowitz established the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts in 1945 (also known as the Workshop Art Center or Washington Workshop Center for the Arts). This Center became a cultural catalyst in the city, bringing together leaders in both the performing and visual arts, including painters such as Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Gene Davis, who would later become well-known founders of the Washington Color School group.

He was often associated with the Color School painters, though he adamantly denied this connection, publicly noting his commitment to the poetics of color and the influence of poetry, music, and physics in his work over the more formalistic concerns of the group.

By the end of 1966, he embarked on the Cathedrals series.  As art critic Sarah E. Fensom writes,

In these works he “essentialized” the vertical, painting vertical bands of glowing color that seem to surge off the canvas…. In Cathedrals, the bands of color are painted on either side of a thin, cake-sliver-like white triangle. This slender wedge, wrote James F. Pilgrim,… acts as a symbolic light source. Pilgrim wrote, “Light seems to move laterally from this core, creating changes in color intensity,” but he added parenthetically that “the changes actually result from light reflecting through various densities of pigment.” Berkowitz’s real light source was the canvas itself.


In a statement for an exhibition of his work at The Phillips Collection in 1976 he said, “I am endeavoring to find that blush of light over light and the color within the light; the depths through which we see when we look into and not at color.”

Berkowitz’s paintings are included in numerous private and public collections around the world, including the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.; Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona; Tucson Museum of Art, Tucson, Arizona; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; James Michener Collection, Houston, Texas; Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C; North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Golda Meir Collection, Jerusalem.