Diebenkorn on Villierme

January 22, 1992 § Leave a comment

Henry Villierme | Lakeview (1957)

Henry Villierme | Lakeview (1957)

WHEN HENRY VILLIERME told me in 1959 that he was leaving the Bay Area for Southern California — to take a job in a bank? — I was stunned and desperately disappointed. Of all the painting students at the California College of Arts and Crafts who might have abandoned his direction, Henry was the one whose defection could hit me the hardest.

In the studio it was always a pleasure to confront him and his painting. He was a hard and intense worker. He was anxious for words from me and I would usually come up with some nonsense which I would interrupt by saying, “Look Henry — just keep painting.” But he usually had some questions and you could feel their extreme need for answers. There were never evasions, apologies or excuses as with some students.

I enjoyed my critiques with Henry. His work was always wet and difficult to handle, would have been through hell but would not be tortured. It would be rich and very solid and just faintly bruised and slightly bloodied — ineffaceable evidence of a desperate fight. Henry would respond, “What fight?”

Beyond this Henry’s painting had, and still has, instinctual understanding of that universal human activity in which colors are applied to a surface.

Henry’s capacity to bring a work to a final state of open, nonintrospective resolution is impressive. There is no one whom I would feel better about describing as “a real painter.”

Anyone who can bring to realization a canvas on a hilltop in a high wind as I once observed is to be profoundly respected.

January 1992

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