Al Held

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Al Held
Born (1928-10-12)October 12, 1928
Brooklyn, New York
Died July 27, 2005(2005-07-27) (aged 76)
Nationality American
Education Art Students League of New York,
Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris
Known for Painting
Movement Abstract expressionism, Post-Painterly Abstraction, Geometric abstraction, Hard-edge painting

Al Held (October 12, 1928 – July 27, 2005) was an American Abstract expressionist painter. He was particularly well known for his large scale Hard-edge paintings.

Background and education[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1928, he grew up in the East Bronx, the son of a poor Jewish family thrown onto welfare during the depression. Held showed no interest in art until leaving the Navy in 1947. Inspired by his friend Nicholas Krushenick, Held enrolled in the Art Students League of New York. In 1949, using the support of the G.I. Bill, he went to Paris for three years, to study at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In Paris, he decided that realism was not for him, and moved into abstraction. An admirer of Jackson Pollock, he became an abstract expressionnist. He returned to New York in 1953 and married Giselle Wexler, with whom he had a daughter, Mara. After the break-up with his wife, he went to San Francisco where he met the soon-to-be postmodern dancer and choreographer Yvonne Rainer. They moved together to New York in 1956, got married in 1957 to split up in 1959. Then in 1969, he married the sculptor, Sylvia Stone.


After his first solo Abstract expressionist exhibition in 1959, Held's large-scale paintings of colourful, simple abstract geometric forms gained increasing recognition in America and Europe. In 1962, he was appointed to the Yale University Faculty Of Art (where he would teach until 1980). In 1965, the critic Irving Sandler curated the critically acclaimed Concrete Expressionism show at New York University featuring the work of painters Al Held and Knox Martin and the sculptors Ronald Bladen, George Sugarman and David Weinrib.[1]

In 1966, Held was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and received the Logan Medal of the arts. Feeling that he'd reached the end of his style's potential, he shifted in 1967 to black and white images that dealt with challenging perspectives and "spatial conundrums". Some critics dismissed this work as simply disorienting; others declared it Held's finest achievement to date. By the late 1970s, he had re-introduced colour to his work. In 1988 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate member, and became a full Academician in 1994.

In his later years, Held earned commissions of up to one million dollars. In 2005, he completed a large, colourful mural in the New York City Subway system, at East 53rd Street and Lexington.

At age 76, Held was found dead in his villa swimming pool near Camerata, Italy, on July 27, 2005. It is believed he died of natural causes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Irving Sandler, From Avant-Garde to Pluralism: An On-The-Spot History (Hard Press Editions, 2006.)


External links[edit]