Robert Kipniss was born in New York City in 1931. His love of art was quickly fostered and nurtured, in large part due to his parents, both of whom were also artists. He began honing his craft at New York City’s acclaimed Art Students League in 1947. During his college years, Kipniss wavered between focusing his attention on an education in literature and one in fine art. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Iowa in 1952 and earned a Master of Fine Arts in Painting and Art History from the same school in 1954.
Kipniss’ first recognition from the art community came before he finished his studies. In 1951, he won an art competition in New York City that earned him his first one-person exhibition. Numerous solo shows followed throughout the United States and beyond. It was in the 1960s that Kipniss began creating graphic works, producing numerous drypoints, lithographs and intaglio works – mezzotints in particular.
The subjects of Kipniss’ works include austere limbs of trees in autumn and winter, spare, modest houses with simple shapes, a rolling countryside dotted with the occasional home, tree or shrub, and shadowy interior scenes. Though the architecture and furnishings hint at the presence of human life, Kipniss’ works are devoid of people. They artfully explore the effects of light and shadow in muted tones, often in shades of white, gray, pale yellow, and dusty green. Though at face value they may simply appear to explore the simple subjects they feature, Kipniss strives to capture something deeper.
“If someone looks at my paintings and sees only trees and houses then they don’t see what I’m doing,” Kipniss has said. “I may be painting trees and houses but when I look at them – that’s not what I see. I see an atmosphere, a moment, a quickly passing experience that I’m trying to capture. My art is of intensity, of delving, of exploring the soul.”
Robert Kipniss’ stark, moody drawings and graphic works are eagerly collected and exhibited by both public and private art enthusiasts around the world.
Kipniss has received numerous awards for his work, including:
1976 New York City’s Ralphi Fabri Prize at the National Academy of Design
1978 The Charles M. Lea Prize from the Print Club of Philadelphia
1979 The Society of American Graphic Artists Printmaking Award
1980 The Audubon Artists of New York City’s Silver Medal
1983 The Audubon Artists of New York City’s Medal of Honour
1997 Certificate of Merit from the National Academy of Design in New York City
1999 The Boston Printmakers’ Rembrandt Graphics Award
Numerous books have been published about the artist. Recent publications include:
2004 Robert Kipniss: Intaglios, 1982-2004 by Trudie A. Grace and Thomas Piche, Jr.
(Manchester, VT: Hudson Hills Press)
2005 Seen in Solitude: Robert Kipniss Prints From the James F. White Collection by Daniel Piersol
(New Orleans, LA: New Orleans Museum of Art)
2007 Robert Kipniss: Paintings 1950-2005 by Richard J. Boyle (Manchester, VT: Hudson Hills Press)
Many museums exhibit Kipniss’ work in their permanent collections, including:
The Whitney Museum of Art – New York City, New York
The Metropolitan Museum of Art – New York City, New York
The Art Institute of Chicago – Chicago, Illinois
The Philadelphia Museum of Art – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, Michigan
The National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution – Washington, DC
The Museum of Fine Arts – Houston, Texas
The British Museum – London, England
The Museum of Fine Arts – Boston, Massachusetts
The New Orleans Museum of Art – New Orleans, Louisiana
His exhibit, “Seen in Solitude: Robert Kipniss Prints from the James F. White Collection,” was slated to open in January 2006 at the New Orleans Museum of Art, but the museum’s doors closed temporarily due to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. When the museum reopened in March 2006, the revamped Kipniss show was its inaugural exhibit. Kipniss’ work is also collected by private art lovers around the world.