Cleve Gray

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Cleve Gray
Cleve Ginsberg

(1918-09-22)September 22, 1918
DiedDecember 8, 2004(2004-12-08) (aged 86)
Known forAbstract expressionist

Cleve Gray (September 22, 1918 in New York City – December 8, 2004 in Hartford, Connecticut) was as an American Abstract expressionist painter, who was also associated with Color Field painting and Lyrical Abstraction.


He was born Cleve Ginsberg. The family changed their name to Gray in 1936.[1]


He attended the Ethical Culture School in New York City (1924–1932); and from age 11 to age 14 he began his formal art training with Antonia Nell, (who had been a student of George Bellows). At 15 until the age of 18 he attended the Phillips Academy, in Andover, Massachusetts; where he studied painting with Bartlett Hayes and won the Samuel F. B. Morse Prize for most promising art student. In 1940 he graduated from Princeton University summa cum laude, with a degree in Art and Archeology. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. At Princeton he studied painting with James C. Davis and Far Eastern Art with George Rowley, for whom he wrote his thesis on Yuan dynasty landscape painting.[2][1][3]


After graduation in 1941 he moved to Tucson, Arizona. In Arizona he exhibited his landscape paintings and still lifes at the Alfred Messer Studio Gallery in Tucson.

World War II[edit]

In 1942 he returned to New York and joined the United States Army. During World War II he served in Britain, France and Germany. In Germany he sketched wartime destruction. After the liberation of Paris he was the first American GI to greet Pablo Picasso and Gertrude Stein. He began informal art training with French artists André Lhote and Jacques Villon. He continued his art studies in Paris after the war.[2][1]


He returned to the United States in 1946. During the Post-war period he began to exhibit his work at the Galerie Durand-Ruel in Paris, and he had his first solo exhibition at the Jacques Seligmann Gallery in New York in 1947.


In 1949 he moved to the house his parents had owned on a 94-acre (380,000 m2) property in Warren, Connecticut, and lived there until his death. He married the noted author Francine du Plessix April 23, 1957. They worked in studios in separate outbuildings separated by a driveway.[1][3]


He was a veteran of scores of exhibitions beginning in Paris and recently in 2002 at the Berry-Hill Gallery in New York City. His paintings are in the collections of numerous important museums and institutions.[1] In 2009 art critic Karen Wilkin curated a posthumous retrospective of his work at the Boca Raton Museum of Art.


His wife of 47 years, writer, Francine du Plessix Gray reported that he died of "massive subdural hematoma suffered after he fell on ice and hit his head."[1][4][5]

Museum collections[edit]


  • Contributing editor for Art in America, from 1960
  • Editor, David Smith by David Smith, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1968)
  • Editor, John Marin by John Marin, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1970)
  • Editor, Hans Richter by Hans Richter, Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1971)


  1. ^ a b c d e f Johnson, Ken (2004-12-10). "Cleve Gray, 86, a Painter of Large Abstract Works". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  2. ^ a b "Cleve Gray, an abstract painter, died on December 8th, aged 86". Economist magazine. 2004-12-29. Retrieved 2008-11-02. In both his work and his attitude toward art, he praised sincerity over irony, and considered headline-grabbing, sensationalistic conceptual work destructive. Toward the end of his life, Mr Gray's peripheral vision dimmed, though he continued painting as he always had: in a converted barn at his home in Warren, Connecticut, where he'd lived since 1949. The brushstrokes of “Letting Go”, a series of paintings from 2003, may have lacked the boldness and scale of his work from decades past, but the paintings retained Mr Gray's hallmark purity, stark bravery, and genius for color.
  3. ^ a b "Miss du Plessix Engaged to Wed". The New York Times. 1957-03-13. Retrieved 2008-10-31.
  4. ^ "Cleve Gray." Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2006. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Document Number: K2015772466. Fee. Accessed 2008-10-31.
  5. ^ Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2008. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2008. Document Number: H1000038983. Entry updated: 20 March 2006. Fee. Accessed 2008-10-31.

Further reading[edit]