Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper – Clyfford Still Museum


Installation Photo

Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper installed in the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation Gallery. Photo by Justin Wambold

Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper

Oct 14, 2016–Jan 15, 2017

“Absolutely gorgeous” — read the Westword review by Michael Paglia.

Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper is the first exhibition ever devoted exclusively to Still’s graphic art. This exhibition of some 260 works and related programs reveal the centrality of drawing within Still’s life-long creative process and challenge prevailing assumptions about Still’s place in art history. More broadly, this project offers a unique opportunity for the public to view a vital, missing element in our understanding of abstract expressionism and a key period in America’s cultural history. Guests to The Works on Paper can visit the DRAWING Room, a hands-on gallery that features drawing activities, artist demonstrations, and a community-created art installation located centrally within the exhibition.

The sheer volume (more than 2,300) and variety of Still’s works on paper attest to the significant role draftsmanship played in his art, particularly when compared to his abstract expressionist contemporaries. Still explored graphite, charcoal, pastel, crayon, pen and ink, oil paint, gouache, and tempera, as well as lithography, etching, woodcut, and silkscreen. The exhibition explicates the interplay between his drawings and paintings. In some cases, paintings grew directly out of sketches or more finished drawings. In others, the opposite was true, underscoring that his works on paper were not preparatory steps but fully realized pieces in themselves. The artist felt a strong, private connection to his works on paper. In a 1978 letter to the art collector and gallerist Sidney Janis, Still described his pastels as “a visual diary of a personal world.”

Purchase your tickets in advance and receive $1 off each one. All children under 18 receive free admission at the Clyfford Still Museum.

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With very few exceptions, paintings will not be on view in the Museum during this exhibition. Researchers seeking access to paintings should contact

This exhibition also draws on the extensive Clyfford Still Archives housed at CSM. For example, small technical sketches of shipbuilding plans from Still’s time working in the war industries are included, which no doubt played a role in the abstracted, mechanistic forms found in many of his drawings and oil works from the early 1940s. Arranged chronologically, the exhibition layout offers large bodies of work in specific media, such as a significant group of oils on paper made between 1943 and 1944 and selections from the more than 1,200 pastels that Still created in the final ten years of his life.

Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper is curated by CSM director Dean Sobel, senior consulting curator David Anfam, and Bailey Harberg Placzek, assistant curator and collections manager.

The exhibition is accompanied by a major publication, the Museum’s first in a digital format, which reproduces all 256 works in the exhibition and includes an essay by Patricia Failing and entries by the CSM curatorial staff. Access the digital catalogue at

Works on Paper Digital Catalogue

PW-4.1, 1931. Watercolor on paper, 10.25 x 14.25 in.

PP-227, 1937. Pastel on paper, 25 x 19 in.

PH-455, 1949. Gouache on paper, 30 x 22 in.

PP-38, 1959. Pastel on paper, 12 x 17.75 in.

PP-1448, 1980. Pastel on paper, 12 x 18 in.

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

National Endowment for the Arts

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