Adolph Dietrich Friedrich Reinhardt (“Ad” Reinhardt) (December 24, 1913–August 30, 1967) was an Abstract expressionist painter, a writer, and a pioneer of conceptual and minimal art. He was also a critic of abstract expressionism. Reinhardt’s earliest exhibited paintings avoided representation, but show a steady progression away from objects and external reference. His work progressed from compositions of geometrical shapes in the 40s to works in different shades of the same color (all red, all blue, all white) in the 50s. Reinhardt is best known for his so-called “black” paintings of the 1960s, which appear at first glance to be simply canvanses painted black but are actually composed of black and nearly black shades. Among many other suggestions, these paintings ask if there can be such a thing as an absolute, even in black, which some viewers may not consider a color at all.
Reinhardt was born in Buffalo, New York, and studied art history at Columbia University, where he was a close friend of Robert Lax and Thomas Merton. It is interesting and instuctive to see how the three developed similar concepts of simplicity in different directions. Reinhardt went on to study painting with Carl Holty and Francis Criss at the American Artists School, then at the National Academy of Design under Karl Anderson. From 1936, he worked for the WPA Federal Art Project, and he soon became a member of the American Abstract Artists group.
Having completed his studies at the New York University Institute of Fine Arts, Reinhardt became a teacher at Brooklyn College and later at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco, the University of Wyoming, Yale University and Hunter College, New York.
His writing includes interesting comments on his own work and that of his contemporaries. His concise wit, sharp focus, and abstraction make them interesting reading even for those who have not seen his paintings. Like his paintings, his writing remains controversial decades after its composition.