facebook image
clyfford still | museum
Framed abstract artworks on paper hang on a concrete wall
Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper installed in the Bonfils-Stanton
Foundation Gallery by Justin Wambold

Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper

Oct 14, 2016 – Jan 15, 2017

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.”

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

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 pubs.clyffordstillmuseum.org/worksonpaper

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.


The DRAWING Room:A Hands-On Gallery

In celebration of the depth and breadth of media and approaches represented in Clyfford Still: The Works on Paper, the Museum is pleased to announce a special hands-on gallery, the DRAWING Room, featured centrally within the exhibition. Drop in to experiment with various drawing activities and media, watch artist demonstrations, and contribute to a community-created art installation. CSM gallery teachers will lead special activities in the DRAWING Room Thursdays through Sundays. Artists will lead demonstrations on select dates through January 8, 2017.

The DRAWING Room is open during all regular Museum hours, and staffed Thursdays through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Fridays with additional hours until 7 p.m. 

Activity themes change every two weeks.  Visit multiple times to try new activities and exercises!

Foundations of Drawing

Friday, October 14–Sunday, October 30, 2016
What are the foundations of creative activity? Sharpen your observation skills and learn about the basics of drawing. Work with perspective, contours, thumbnail sketching, shadow, and more.

The Power of Line

Tuesday, November 1–Sunday, November 13, 2016
Line is one of the most fundamental art elements employed by artists.  Experiment with charcoal, pen, pastel, watercolor, conte and other media to explore the power of line and how material choice can affect expression.

Drawing from Still Life, the Figure, and More

Tuesday, November 15–Wednesday, November 23, 2016
Artists sharpen their observation skills by learning to draw from life. Draw from recreations of the still-life compositions Still used, or create your own from our prop box. Sketch from figure models or strike a pose for your companion. Figure models will be present every Thursday during the run of the exhibition, from 12-3 p.m.

Technical Drawing Extravaganza

Friday, November 25–Sunday, December 11, 2016
What is the relationship between technical drawing and art? The Museum’s collection contains examples of diagrams, anatomical drawings, architectural renderings, and more. Using technical drawings as inspiration, experiment with special materials and methods to come up with your own unique creations.

Artist Journals and Books

Tuesday, December 13–Saturday, December 24, 2016
Why do artists keep sketchbooks, and do sketchbooks have to include sketches? Make your own journals using simple book-making techniques, and explore a variety of artist sketchbooks and source materials. Get inspired with collage, creative prompts, and more.

Towards Conceptual: Drawing of All Kinds

Tuesday, December 27–Sunday, January 8, 2017
In contemporary art, “drawing” can mean many types of activity. Artists “draw” with wire and tape, and use unconventional media to create drawings in space. Expand your idea of what drawing can be as we abstract basic drawings, experiment with nontraditional materials, and take inspiration from the work of contemporary artists.

Free with admission | No registration required
Museum admission is free on Friday evenings, 5–8 p.m.