As a boy in Dvinsk, Russia, he saw
the bodies of other Jews who had been
kidnapped and massacred by Cossacks.
He dropped out of Yale. But he got
an honorary doctorate 46 years later.
He believed that art came from “an inborn
feeling for form; the ideal lies in the
spontaneity, simplicity, and directness of children.”
For years he struggled as an artist.
His family said he never wrote his
mother or did anything to support her.
He was into Surrealism for a while.
Then he stopped putting his paintings in
frames or giving them titles,
other than dates and numbers.
His mature work became color
blocks, vibrating color blocks.
Over time, he began to favor darker colors.
Some think these late 1960s works
look like the lunar landscape.
After being hospitalized in 1968 for an
aortic aneurysm, his doctor forbade him
to work on canvases more than three feet tall.
He was a suicide, but an autopsy showed
that his system had been poisoned by the
antidepressants he was taking.
“I’m only interested in expressing basic
human emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom, and so on.”
After his death, his family learned that his long-time
manager had been ripping him off big time for years.
It was in all the papers.