Larry Rivers

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Larry Rivers
Rivers in 1961
Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg

(1923-08-17)August 17, 1923
New York City, U.S.
DiedAugust 14, 2002(2002-08-14) (aged 78)
EducationHans Hofmann School
Known forPainting, sculpture
MovementEast Coast figurative painting, new realism, pop art
Augusta Berger
(m. 1945; div. 1946)
Clarice Price
(m. 1961; sep. 1967)

Larry Rivers (born Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg; August 17, 1923 – August 14, 2002) was an American artist, musician, filmmaker, and occasional actor.[1] Considered by many scholars to be the "Godfather" and "Grandfather" of Pop art, he was one of the first artists to merge non-objective, non-narrative art with narrative and objective abstraction.[1][3]


Larry Rivers in 1961

Larry Rivers was born as Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg in the Bronx, New York, in the family of Jewish immigrants from Ukraine.[4] Rivers took up painting in 1945 and studied at the Hans Hofmann School from 1947 through 1948.[5] He earned a BA in art education from New York University in 1951.[5]

His work was quickly acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. A 1953 painting Washington Crossing the Delaware was damaged in fire at the museum five years later.[6]

He was a pop artist of the New York School, reproducing everyday objects of American popular culture as art. He was one of eleven New York artists featured in the opening exhibition at the Terrain Gallery in 1955.

He has been contextualised as working out of the Abstract expressionist legacy of Willem de Kooning, "adapting the freedom of the Abstract Expressionist technique towards figurative ends."[7]

During the early 1960s Rivers lived in Manhattan's Hotel Chelsea, notable for its artistic residents such as Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Leonard Cohen, Arthur C. Clarke, Dylan Thomas, Sid Vicious and multiple people associated with Andy Warhol's Factory and where he brought several of his French nouveau réalistes friends like Yves Klein who wrote there in April 1961 his Manifeste de l'hôtel Chelsea, Arman, Martial Raysse, Jean Tinguely, Niki de Saint-Phalle, Christo, Daniel Spoerri or Alain Jacquet, several of whom, like Rivers, left some pieces of art in the lobby of the hotel for payment of their rooms. In 1965, Rivers had his first comprehensive retrospective in five important American museums. [citation needed]

His final work for the exhibition was The History of the Russian Revolution, which was later on extended permanent display at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. He spent 1967 in London collaborating with the American painter Howard Kanovitz.[citation needed]

In 1967, Rivers traveled to Africa for a second time with Pierre Dominique Gaisseau to finish their documentary Africa and I, which was a part of the groundbreaking NBC series Experiments in Television. During this trip they narrowly escaped execution as suspected mercenaries.[7]

During the 1970s, Rivers worked closely with Diana Molinari and Michel Auder on many video tape projects, including the infamous Tits, and also worked in neon.[8]

Rivers's legs appeared in John Lennon and Yoko Ono's 1971 film Up Your Legs Forever.[9]

In 1971, he curated Some American History at the Institute for the Arts at Rice University in Houston, where his own work was exhibited alongside that of Ellsworth Ausby, Peter Bradley, Frank Bowling, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Joe Overstreet, and William T. Williams.[10]


Between 1940 and 1945, he worked as a jazz saxophonist in New York City; he changed his name to Larry Rivers in 1940 after being introduced as "Larry Rivers and the Mudcats".[11] He studied at the Juilliard School of Music in 1945–46, along with Miles Davis, with whom he remained friends until Davis's death in 1991.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

Larry Rivers was born in the Bronx to Samuel and Sonya Grossberg, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine.[5] He changed his name to Rivers in 1940 at the start of his career as jazz saxophonist.[7]

In 1945, he married Augusta Berger, and they had one son, Steven.[1] Rivers also adopted Joseph, Berger's son from a previous relationship, and reared both children after the couple divorced.[1] He lived with his mother-in-law, Berdie Burger, who was a favorite model of his, in Southampton, Long Island, from 1953 through 1957.[7]

In 1961, he married Clarice Price, a Welsh school teacher, who cared for his two sons.[11] The couple had two daughters together, Gwynne and Emma, but the telationship lasted only six years before Larry and Clarice separated.[11] [12]

Shortly after, he lived and collaborated with Diana Molinari, who featured in many of his works of the 1970s.[citation needed]

Rivers then lived with Sheila Lanham, a Baltimore artist and poet.[citation needed]

In the early 1980s, Rivers and East Village figurative painter Daria Deshuk (1956–2017) lived together and, in 1985, they produced a son, Sam Deshuk Rivers. They remained good friends until Rivers's death.[13]

Rivers also maintained a relationship with poet Frank O'Hara in the late 1950s and delivered the eulogy at O'Hara's funeral, in 1966.[14][15]

Throughout his career, the artist maintained studios in New York City; Southampton, Long Island; and Zihuatanejo, Mexico.[citation needed]

Rivers died in 2002, leaving behind his five children and then companion, poet Jeni Olin.[12]


His primary gallery was the Marlborough Gallery in New York City. In 2002, a major retrospective of Rivers's work was held at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. New York University bought correspondences and other documents from the Larry Rivers Foundation to house in their archive.[16] However, his daughters Gwynne and Emma objected to one particular film being displayed, as it depicts them naked as children and adolescents. The film's purpose is supposedly the documentation of their growth through puberty, but it was made when they were not consenting adults.[12] The matter was addressed in the December 2010 issue of the magazine Vanity Fair,[12] and the October 2010 issue of Grazia.[citation needed] The film will never be publicly displayed as requested by both children. [citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Kimmelman, Michael (August 16, 2002). "Larry Rivers, Artist With an Edge, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  2. ^ Smith, Patrick S. Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, Thematic Series: The 1960s. Rivers, Larry. Retrieved 20 June 2021.
  3. ^ Rose, Barbara (November 2002). "Barbara Rose on Larry Rivers". Artforum.
  4. ^ "Larry Rivers". Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  5. ^ a b c "Biography". Larry Rivers Foundation. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  6. ^ "Permanent Revolution". New York magazine. September 10, 2012.
  7. ^ a b c d Emmanuel, Muriel (1983). Contemporary Artists (2nd ed.). London: Macmillan. pp. 785, 787.
  8. ^ J.D. Reed (June 10, 1985). "The Canvas is the Night: Once a Visual Vagrant, Neon Has a Stylish New Glow". Time magazine. Archived from the original on July 23, 2009. Neon is the strongest, most direct form of illustration," argued Artist Larry Rivers in Rudi Stern's 1979 book Let There Be Neon. "And the canvas is the night.
  9. ^ Jonathan Cott (16 July 2013). Days That I'll Remember: Spending Time With John Lennon & Yoko Ono. Omnibus Press. p. 74. ISBN 978-1-78323-048-8.
  10. ^ "Some American History - catalogue". Diaspora Artist. 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2023.
  11. ^ a b c McNay, Michael (August 17, 2002). "Larry Rivers: Rabelaisian American painter whose impressionistic and witty work predated pop art". The Guardian. London. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  12. ^ a b c d Shnayerson, Michael (November 3, 2010). "Crimes of the Art?". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2022-11-21.
  13. ^ "Daria Deshuk, Artist | The East Hampton Star". The East Hampton Star. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  14. ^ Johnson, Ken (15 August 2008). "Portraits Shockingly Intimate a Half-Century Ago Now Assume a Softer Patina". The New York Times. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  15. ^ Sheehan, Dan (27 July 2020). "Remembering Frank O'Hara's funeral". Literary Hub. Retrieved 2 June 2023.
  16. ^ Taylor, Kate (July 7, 2010). "Artist's Daughter Wants Videos Back". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-07.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]