Diebenkorn, Box 64, 1948


We’re setting a short step back to box #64 with June-July 1948 timestamp.

When I scanned the image below, my jaw dropped and I held my breath when this image was revealed line by line on the screen.

Richard Diebenkorn is a very recognizable, singular and distinguished American painter, draftsman, and printmaker who successfully explored both abstract and figurative painting. (He was born in Oregon in 1922 and attended Stanford University from 1940 to 1943 with a Bachelor of Arts in 1949. He lived and worked in Sausalito, with his wife Phyllis, between 1947-1949 after a stay in New York/Woodstock. During that time Richard was a teacher at CFSA)

I became familiar with Diebenkorn’s work in 1993, while I lived and worked in Los Angeles, after moving from Belgium to US in 1991. The Ocean Park series was my first introduction to Richard’s work.

EDIT: August 2, 2022

After communication with the Richard DIebenkorn Foundation, we now know that only two of the images below belong to Richard. These were exhibited in June-July, 1948 at the Palace of the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.

The 3 other works are not attributed yet.

Unknown artist, undetermined location, circa 1948 (Printed)

We do observe the fairly large artwork is set up on an easel, the sun is coming from almost straight above. The background, or at least what’s visible of it, suggests a well maintained park-like setting. (There’s nothing that suggests College of Pacific in Stockton.)

The next image threw me for a little loop as it didn’t ring an immediate bell. It’s unframed, so most likely a different artist. All other 4 paintings are framed, a hint at exhibition.

Smaller painting, unknown artist, before 1948 (Printed)

Next image scan revealed an unmistakably Richard Diebenkorn, no signature needed. We’ll discuss this large sized painting in a bit more detail later in this blog post.

Richard DIebenkorn painting, undetermined location, circa 1948 (Printed)

Next piece of art I recognized as an earlier period of Diebenkorn’s work. My guess is 1945-1947. One can also wonder who’s hand is in the picture, ensuring the artwork doesn’t topple over. EDIT: My guess was wrong, this is not a Richard DIebenkorn painting according to the RIchard Diebenkorn Foundation.

Unknown artist, painting (? TBD) , undetermined location, circa 1948 (Printed)

While observing these images, we also notice these negatives were all copied and/or printed by Joel. The tape marks, holding the negatives down on the glass plate, are clearly visible.

Signed (48( Richard DIebenkorn painting, undetermined location, circa 1948 (Printed)

The last scan finally revealed a signed painting, no longer any ambiguity. At least two paintings, but more likely 4 paintings, are from Richard Diebenkorn.

EDIT: Only two paintings are RIchard Diebenkorn above, correction after communication with the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

The easel stayed mostly in the same location during this photo session, albeit the orientation changes slightly to minimize cast shadow of the frames. Based on the hand location and angle, the last signed painting is the tallest one.

Each and everyone of the abstract expressionist artworks is displayed the right side up. Which makes me (wishfully) believe it is Richard Diebenkorn who’s holding the artwork in place.

I have two artbooks about Richard DIebenkorn’s work and few art magazine article snippets.

Richard Diebenkorn, Paintings and Drawings, 1943-1976, with essays by Robert T. Buck Jr., Linda L. Cathcart, Gerald Nordland and Maurice Tuchman, published in 1976.

Richard Diebenkorn, Beginnings, 1942-1955, with essays by Scott A. Shields, PhD, for the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation in conjunction with the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, published in 2017.

Reading about the early work of Richard Diebenkorn, we pick up that he holds his first solo exhibition in 1948 at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, June 4, 1948 to July 1, 1948, but he also shows other work that same year in the San Francisco Art Association’s (SFAA) annual exhibitions. (I wouldn’t be surprised that the latter exhibits are where these painting were photographed, OTOH, June-July 1948 is what Joel scribbled on the negative box.)

Thes negatives were found in a box with images of a August Julius Pahl family get-together. August Pahl lived in the Oakland area at the time, but he equally had a business in San Francisco. So it is quite imaginable that the family visit coincided with the Diebenkorn exhibit. This would explain why the negatives ended up in the same June-July 1948 box.

I cropped and straightened out all paintings out of the negatives and I’m showing them below in the same order as scanned. I did find one of the images in color in the “Beginnings 1942-1955” book, with a clear indication it is in the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation. The latter also excludes an earlier thought that Joel photographed someone’s newly acquired abstract work.

The other images were not found online, or in any of the books or articles I have, and unfortunately, I don’t have the Catalogue Raisonné for RIchard DIebenkorn (by Jane Livingston) ($400 for 4 volumes … hint, hint, hint … )

I will share below images with the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation and see what feedback I receive. EDIT: Feedback received and the corrections are applied below.

Unknown artist’s painting, before 1948, Abstract Expressionism
Artist TBD, painting, circa 1948, Figurative
Untitled, CA 1948, Oil on Canvas, 45″ x 34 1/4″, Collection of the RIchard Diebenkorn Foundation.
Color plate can be found in Richard Diebenkorn Beginning 1942-1955 book on page 102.

I’ve searched online for this image and it is relatively easy to find on a number of sites. It is in the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation collection and I’ll reproduce with proper credit below. This gives the reader an appreciation for the color and how difficult it is to translate B&W back to color when it comes to abstract paintings as there is no real-life reference. Even white and black become questionable as hues.

Untitled, circa 1948, Oil on Canvas, 45″ x 34 1/4″, Collection of the (c) RIchard Diebenkorn Foundation.
This work is signed on the back, and has been exhibited in multiple exhibitions.
Unknown artist’s painting (TBD), before 1948, Abstract Expressionism

The last painting’s signature, shown below, clearly puts it into 1948.

Diebenkorn signature with year indicator
Richard Diebenkorn painting, signed 1948, Abstract Expressionism

Any comment or input is as always appreciated, there’s some speculation in all of the above.

I didn’t find a single Kodachrome in Joel’s estate from this exhibition event, so there may not exist a color copy of any of the above.

The image below was retrieved on-line, and, after some research, appears to be property of the RIchard Diebenkorn Foundation. it shows Richard’s first solo exhibit in the San Francisco Palace of the Legion of Honor. It’s clearly an indoor exhibit, observe how the frames on the exhibited paintings are similar to the frames of the paintings reproduced in this blog post.

Richard Diebenkorn, Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, (c) Richard Diebenkorn Foundation.

For those interested in learning more about Richard Diebenkorn, please visit:

Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

Cheers !


Communication with the RIchard Diebenkorn Foundation for full transparency.


3 responses to “Diebenkorn, Box 64, 1948”

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