Raymond Saunders (artist)

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Raymond Saunders
Born1934 (age 85–86)
EducationCalifornia College of Arts and Crafts
Known forPainting

Raymond Saunders (born 1934)[1] is an American artist known for his multimedia paintings which often have sociopolitical undertones,[2] and which incorporate assemblage, drawing, collage and found text.[3] Saunders is also recognized for his installation, sculpture, and curatorial work.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Saunders received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at Carnegie Institute of Technology in 1960. He trained at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the University of Pennsylvania, and the Barnes Foundation[4] before going on to earn his Master of Fine Arts degree from California College of Arts and Crafts in 1961.[5]


Saunders lives and works primarily in Oakland, California. Saunders is a former professor of Painting at California College of the Arts, Oakland, California,[3] and professor emeritus at California State University, East Bay, in Hayward, California.[6]

Saunders works in a large variety of media, but is mainly known for work that encompasses painting and transversal media juxtaposition, sometimes bordering on the sculptural (as in Pieces of Visual Thinking, 1987) but always retaining the relation to the flat wall key to modernism in painting. Saunders' painting is expressive, and often incorporates collage (mostly small bits of printed paper found in everyday life), chalked words (sometimes crossed out), and other elements that add references and texture without breaking the strong abstract compositional structure. This lends a sense of social narrative to even his abstract work which sets it apart from artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Jim Dine, or Cy Twombly, with which it has obvious affinities.

In 1967, Saunders declared "black is a color".[7] Throughout his career Saunders has questioned the premise that black artists produce something that should be uniquely identified as "black art". In his own work, he looked to separate his practice from the restrictions of identity-driven art,[8] "I am an artist. I do not believe that art work should be limited or categorized by one's racial background."[9]

Besides his painting, Saunders in known for his late 1960s pamphlet Black is a Color, which argues against metaphoric uses of the concept "black" in both the mainstream abstract and conceptual art world and Black Nationalist cultural writing of the time.[10]


Saunders had his debut New York solo in 1962.[4] He had one painting, "Night Poetry", in the Third Philadelphia Arts Festival.[11] In the late 1960s, he was represented by the Terry Dintenfass Gallery[12] in an era when New York Galleries were almost exclusively exhibiting white men. He has exhibited internationally, spending time in Paris and exhibiting at the Latin Quarter's Galerie Resche.[13] His international exhibits have included venues in France, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Singapore, Korea, Japan, China.[3]

His painting of Jack Johnson (1972, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art) was used as the cover of Powell's Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century.[14]


Raymond Saunders works are in collections including the Museum of Modern Art, National Gallery of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center.[15] Other collections he is included in are the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts at the Legion of Honor (San Francisco, California),[16] Bank of America (San Francisco, California), the Carnegie Museum of Art (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Crocker Art Museum (Sacramento, California), Hunter College (New York, New York), Howard University (Washington, D.C.), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York), the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum (San Francisco, California), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles, California), the Museum of Modern Art (New York, New York), the Oakland Museum of California (Oakland, California), the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, California),[17] the Berkeley Art Museum (Berkeley, California), the Walker Art Center, (Minneapolis, Minnesota),[18] and the Whitney Museum of American Art(New York, New York).[19]


In 1964 Saunders was awarded a Rome Prize Fellowship in painting.[20] He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1976[21] and two National Endowment for the Arts Awards the first in 1977,[22] the second in 1984.[23] In 1988 he was a recipient of the 9th annual Awards in the Visual Arts.[24]

Curatorial projects[edit]

Saunders curated Paris Connections in 1992 at San Francisco's Bomani Gallery.[3]


  1. ^ "Raymond Saunders Biography". artnet. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Raymond Saunders". Artsy. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d "Raymond Saunders". California College of the Arts. Retrieved 12 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b Chase, Hank (January 2000). "Raymond Saunders comes full circle". American Visions. 14 (6): 26.
  5. ^ "Raymond Saunders". askART. Retrieved 19 December 2015.
  6. ^ "Faculty Profiles". www.csueastbay.edu. Retrieved 2019-03-29.
  7. ^ Saggese, Jordana Moore. "The Pleasures and the Perils of Abstraction: Choose Paint! Choose Abstraction!, the Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco". International Review of African American Art. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  8. ^ "UC Santa Cruz: Exhibitions: RAymond Saunders". UCSC. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  9. ^ Saunders, Raymond. "Raymond Saunders: Seen and Unseen (Interview)". Cultural Weekly. Adam Leipzig. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  10. ^ Saunders, Raymond. Black is a Color San Francisco, undated (c. 1968).
  11. ^ Third Philadelphia Arts Festival: Philadelphia Art Museum, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, June 9 to June 24, 1962.
  12. ^ Glueck, Grace (February 27, 1969). "Negroes' Art Is What's In Just Now". The New York Times Company. New York Times.
  13. ^ Cohen, Roger (Feb 7, 1994). "Once Welcomed, Black Artists Return To an Indifferent France". The New York Times Company. New York Times. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  14. ^ Powell, Richard J. (1997). Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century. New York, N.Y: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-18195-9.
  15. ^ "Raymond Saunders". Artcyclopedia. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  16. ^ "de Young/Legion of Honor: Explore the Art: Raymond Saunders". Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  17. ^ "Raymond Saunders, Works in the Collection, 1977". SFMoMA. Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  18. ^ "Walker Art Center Collections: Raymond Saunders". Walker Art Center. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  19. ^ "All artists in the collection: Saunders, Raymond Jennings". Whitney Museum of American Art. Archived from the original on 17 March 2016. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  20. ^ "American Academy Awards 16 Grants". The New York Times Company. New York Times. March 31, 1964. Retrieved 16 February 2016.
  21. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellows: Raymond Saunders". John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  22. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts: 1977 Annual Report" (PDF). USA.gov. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  23. ^ "National Endowment for the Arts: 1984 Annual Report" (PDF). USA.gov. Retrieved 19 February 2016.
  24. ^ "AVA 9 Artists Announced". Art Papers. Nov/Dec 1989: 71. November 1, 1989.

External links[edit]