There is never any question of what to paint only how to paint.
—— Robert Ryman
Robert Ryman (1930 – 2019) was an American painter identified with the movements of monochrome painting, minimalism, and conceptual art. Ryman preferred to be known as a “realist”, because he was not interested in creating illusions, but only in presenting the materials he used in compositions at their face value. Ryman’s iconic works examine the limited palette of white on white, painted on a variety of surfaces that include linen, fiberglass, vinyl, jute, and wallpaper, drawing the eye toward the nature of the brush strokes and the depth of paint. To further heighten the effect of subtle variations in technique, Ryman manipulates how each work is hung on the wall, playing with the frames themselves as well as with each painting’s distance from the wall. Ryman also experimented with printmaking, creating etchings, aquatints, lithographs, and silkscreens. Ryman preferred the term of “name” for a painting instead of a title because he was not creating a picture or making reference to anything except the paint and the materials. The “names” of paintings often come from the names of art supplies, companies, or are just general words that do not carry much connotation.
Robert Ryman was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has received many awards, including a Skowhegan Medal and a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. He has had major exhibitions at Tate Gallery, London; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Dia Art Foundation; Inverleith House, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland; and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He has participated in Documenta, the Venice Biennale, the Whitney Biennial; and the Carnegie International. Ryman lived and worked in New York and Pennsylvania, where he passed away in February 2019.