Leon Berkowitz (1911-1987)
Duality No. 14, 1970
Oil on canvas
70 x 30.37 inches
Leon Berkowitz was born in Philadelphia in 1911. He 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.
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.
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.