Painter and sculptor Adolph Gottlieb (American, 1903–1974) was a prominent member of the abstract artists from the New York School. As a teenager, he attended the Art Students League of New York, and, at the age of 18, decided to travel to Europe, taking classes at the famously progressive Académie de la Grande Chaumière in Paris.
When Gottlieb returned to New York City in the 1930s, he became a member of a group of New York painters called The Ten. This group was formed in 1935, and many of its members would later be known as Abstract Expressionist or Color Field painters. When Gottlieb moved to the Arizona desert in the late 1930s, he began incorporating symbolic elements into uniform landscapes, influenced by Surrealism. In the 1940s, Gottlieb returned to New York City, and remained in contact with Surrealist artists, working with universal symbols throughout the 1940s and 1950s in his Pictographs, viewing these visual symbols as a parallel to written language. In the 1950s, Gottlieb worked on Imaginary Landscapes, a series of paintings representing a general sense of foreground and background rather than a particular landscape. Gottlieb’s later works include his Burst Paintings, in which the artist explored the relationships between two opposite forms, a motif he explored in sculptures at the same time, such as in the work Petaloid from the late 1960s.
Gottlieb continued painting after having a stroke in 1970, and, two years later, was named a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters. His work has been exhibited internationally since the 1950s, including exhibitions at documenta II in 1959 in Kassel, Germany, as well as two 1968 retrospectives, at the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York City. Gottlieb was also known as a political figure, and participated in protests questioning political decisions in the contemporary art world.