Happy 108th Birthday, Clyfford Still

On November 30, 1904, Clyfford Still was born in Grandin, North Dakota. The famously tempestuous Abstract Expressionist had a strong will and fiercely held opinions; at the age of 21 he enrolled at the Art Students League in Manhattan only to drop out, dissatisfied, 45 minutes later. Still forged close relationships with many other Abstract Expressionists, including Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. In 1955, art critic and one-time Pollock champion Clement Greenberg wrote in the Partisan Review that Still was “one of the most important and original painters of our time—perhaps the most original of all painters under 55, if not the best.” Related or not to the article, Still was not invited to Pollock’s solo exhibition held in Manhattan shortly thereafter. Following this snub, Still sent Pollock a scathing letter. “Dear Jack,” he wrote. “I did not receive an invitation to your show. This makes me somewhat curious. Is it that you are ashamed of it? Or are you ashamed of what you are willing to take from those who know how to use you to express their contempt for the artist as a man? It’s a hell of a price to pay, isn’t it? Yours most sincerely, Clyff.”