Al Held

United States of America 1928 – Italy 2005

Al Held was born in Brooklyn, New York, on 12 October 1928. After service with the US Navy and with assistance from the GI Bill, he enrolled at the Art Students League, New York, where he studied from 1948 to 1949. Dissatisfied with the tuition, he moved to Paris, attending the Académie de la Grande Chaumière from 1950 to 1953. He held his first solo exhibition at Galerie Hit, Paris, in 1952. Held was much influenced by the Abstract Expressionists at this time, and showed thick and crusty gestural paintings throughout the 1950s. He returned to New York in 1953, working at odd jobs to support himself. He exhibited occasionally but it was not until 1959 that he had his second solo show, at Pointdexter Gallery, New York. With this exhibition behind him, Held began to work towards a new style, introducing to his paintings geometric shapes with clean edges and flat colour. These became the hallmarks of his mature style, which gained him critical acceptance from the early 1960s.

Held was appointed Associate Professor of Art at Yale University in 1962, a position he held until 1980. In 1965 he began the first of many regular exhibitions at the André Emmerich Gallery, New York. His work was shown in a solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 1966, and he was given a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in 1974. Held took up a six-month residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1981, and has returned to work in Italy on a regular basis, finally establishing a studio in Todi, Italy. Held lived and worked in New York and in Todi, and died in Umbria on 27 July 2005.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

Al Held Skywatch II 1971 © Al Held. VAGA/Copyright Agency Purchased 1973 Learn more