born August 17, 1923, New York,New York, U.S.
died August 14, 2002, Southampton, New York
original name Yitzroch Loiza Grossberg American painter whose works
frequently combined the vigorous, painterly brushstrokes of Abstract
Expressionism with the commercial images of the Pop art movement.
Rivers early developed an interest in jazz, and after briefly serving in the
army during World War II he studied composition at the Juilliard School of
Music. One of his classmates there was Miles Davis, who introduced him to
other jazz musicians, and Rivers was soon touring the UnitedStates with
different groups as a jazz saxophonist. In 1945, however, he was given a
book on modern art and quickly discovered he had a natural talent for
painting. From 1947 to 1948 he studied in the New York City and
Provincetown, Massachusetts, school of the prominent Abstract Expressionist
Hans Hofmann. Rivers later studied at New York University College,
graduating in 1951. His early paintings were exhibited in New York City in
Rivers's first major work was The Burial (1951), a grim depiction of his
grandmother's funeral, based on the Burial atOrnans by Gustave Courbet. His
Washington Crossing the Delaware (1953) was based on the familiar work by a
19th-century American painter, Emanuel Leutze. Though criticized for its
banal subject matter and mixture of styles, the painting nonetheless
attracted widespread attention. From 1951 to 1957 he made a series of
portraits of his mother-in-law, of which the harshly realistic Double
Portrait of Berdie (1955) is perhaps best known.
Rivers's works were characterized by competent draftsmanship, a fine sense
of colour, and the frequent use of complex, fragmentary, and multiple views.
Beginning in 1961, commercial images, such as cigarette packages, figured
prominently in his pictures, which, after 1963, frequently had elements of
collage, construction, and sculpture. A particularly elaborate example of
such mixed-media works was The History of the Russian Revolution: From Marx
to Mayakovsky (1965), which had some 30 individual paintings and included,
among other objects, a machine gun. His autobiography, What Did I Do? (cowritten
with Arnold Weinstein), was published in 1992.