Robert Kipniss: Light and Shadow



Robert Kipniss, painter and printmaker, was born in New York City in 1931. Kipniss studied at the Art Students League in 1947; Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio, 1948-50; and the University of Iowa, receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree in English literature in 1952, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in painting and art history in 1954. Kipniss’ first recognition from the art community came in 1951 when 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. In the 1960s, 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, modest houses with simple shapes, a rolling countryside dotted with the occasional home, 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 and gray. 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.”