Leon Golub

Leon Golub

Leon Golub (January 23, 1922 - August 8, 2004) was an American painter. He was born in Chicago, Illinois, where he also studied, receiving his BA at the University of Chicago in 1942, his BFA and MFA at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1949 and 1950, respectively.

He was married to and collaborated with the artist Nancy Spero. His son, Stephen Golub, is an economics professor at Swarthmore College

Early life

Born in Chicago in 1922, Golub received his B.A. in Art History from the University of Chicago in 1942. From 1947 to 1949 he studied, under the G.I. Bill, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he met the artist Nancy Spero, to whom he was married for nearly fifty years. In Chicago he became involved with other painters, known as the Monster Roster group, which believed that an observable connection to the external world and to actual events was essential if a painting was to have any relevance to the viewer or society. This is a view that informed Golub's work throughout his career.


Golub, who always painted in a unique figural style, drew upon diverse representations of the body from ancient Greek and Roman sculpture, to photographs of athletic competitions, to gay pornography; often pulled directly from a huge database he assembled of journalistic images from the mass media. He likened his painting process to sculptural technique and employed a method of layering and scraping away paint, sometimes using a meat cleaver, leaving varying amounts of canvas untouched.From 1959 through 1964 Golub and his wife Nancy Spero opted to live in Europe, a move occasioned in part by the belief that Europe would be more receptive to their work dealing overtly with issues of power, sexual and political. During this period Golub's work increased in size because of larger available studio space and the inspiration of the French tradition of large-scale history painting. He also switched from using lacquer to acrylics, left more of the surface unpainted, and began to grind the paint directly into the canvas. While in Italy, both Golub and Spero were profoundly influence by the figurative works of Etruscan and Roman art, whose narratives addressed ancient themes of power and violence.

When Golub returned to New York, the Vietnam War was escalating, and he responded with his two series: Napalm and Vietnam.

In the mid-seventies Golub was beset with self-doubt. He destroyed nearly every work he produced during this period and nearly abandoned painting. In the late seventies, however, he produced more than a hundred portraits of public figures, among them political leaders, dictators, and religious figures. Leon Golub: Paintings, 1950-2000 includes several portraits of Nelson Rockefeller and Ho Chi Minh, along with images of Fidel Castro, Francisco Franco, Richard Nixon, and Henry Kissinger.

In the 1980s Golub turned his attention to terrorism in a variety of forms, from the subversive operations of governments to urban street violence. Killing fields, torture chambers, bars, and brothels became inspiration and subject for work that dealt with such themes as violent aggression, racial inequality, gender ambiguity, oppression, and exclusion. Among the work produced in this period are the series Mercenaries, Interrogation, Riot, and Horsing Around.From the nineties to his death, Golub's work shifted toward the illusionistic, with forms semi-visible, and appropriated graphic styles from ancient carvings, medieval manuscripts, and contemporary graffiti. As an older man he began to consider his own mortality, and moved toward themes of separation, loss, and death. Text appeared in many of the paintings combined with a series of symbolic references, including dogs, lions, skulls, and skeletons.

Golub's work was seen in solo exhibitions throughout the world, among them World Wide (1991), a Grand Lobby project at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. For World Wide the artist created a process, repeated in exhibitions at several other museums, by which he enlarged images and details from his paintings and screened them on transparent sheets of vinyl, hung so that they surround the viewer. He was represented in many group exhibitions and was one of the few white artists included in "Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art" at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1994.

In 1996 Golub was given a commission to design a set of stained glass windows for Temple Sholom in Chicago, the four windows depict the life of Joseph. These would be the only stained glass windows Leon Golub ever did. They were fabricated in New York by Victor Rothman and Gene Mallard.

elected Public Collections

Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, TX
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Australian National Gallery, Canberra
Baltimore Museum of Art, MD
Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Paris
Brooklyn Museum of Art, NY
Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA
Cincinnati Art Museum, OH
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
David and Alfred Smart Gallery, University of Chicago
Des Moines Art Center, IA
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence
Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Honolulu Academy of Arts, HI
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington
Indianapolis Museum of Art, IN
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Jewish Museum, New York
Kent State University, OH
Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois , Champaign-Urbana
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA
Madison Art Center, Madison, WI
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Miami Art Museum, FL
Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Quebec
Musei Civici di Udine, Friuli
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
National Museum of Fine Arts, Hanoi
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA
Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, IL
Tate Gallery, London
Tel Aviv Museum of Art
Tennessee State Museum, Nashville
Toledo Museum of Art, OH
University of California at Berkeley
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Austin University Museum, University of Texas
Vancouver Art Gallery
Whitney Museum of American Art, NY

elected Private Foundations

Eli Broad Family Foundation, Los Angeles, CA

elected Private Collections

Saatchi Collection, London
Gene R. Summers, Chicago
Ulrich Meyer and Harriet Horwitz, Chicago

Films & Videos

* "Golub / Spero," DVD from Kartemquin Films, Chicago, IL, 2006 (which includes Golub: Late Works are the Catastrophes; Woman As Protagonist: The Art of Nancy Spero; Artemis, Acrobats, Divas and Dancers: Nancy Spero in the NYC Subway)
* "Golub: The Late Works Are the Catastrophes," a film by Kartemquin Films, Chicago, IL, 2004
* "Golub," a film by Kartemquin Films, Chicago, IL, 1988 (previewed New York Film Festival, 1988)
* "State of the Art: Ideas & Images of the 1980s," Program 5, TV Film Channel Four, London, England, 1987
* "Victims," Media Environment with Nancy Spero and Werner Wada, Rod Rodgers Dance Company
* "The Mercenary Game," a documentary film by Alain d'Aix et al, The RadioTelevision du Quebec, 1983


*(June 2001) "Too many people have a sort of protective attitude about art. You know, Don't touch. It's valuable. I'm trying to be more in your face, like when you walk down the street and suddenly you encounter a situation. I'm trying to invite you into scenes where you might not want to be invited in."
*(2000) "If I had to give a description of my work I would say it's a definition of how power is demonstrated through the body and in human actions, and in our time, how power and stress and political and industrial powers are shown."


* Marzorati, Gerald, “A painter of darkness: Leon Golub and our times”, New York, Viking, 1990.
* Murphy, Patrick T., “paintings, 1987-1992, curated by Patrick T. Murphy; with an essay by Carrie Rickey”, Philadelphia: Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, 1992.
* Obalk, Hector, “Leon Golub: heads and portraits”, Kyoto, Kyoto Shoin, 1990.

External links

* [http://www.broadartfoundation.org/collection/golub.html The Broad Art Foundation website]
* [http://www.feldmangallery.com Ronald Feldman Gallery website]
* [http://www.printworkschicago.com/artists/golub/golub.htm Printworks Gallery website]
* [http://www.artnet.com/awc/leon-golub.html Leon Golub catalogue in artnet's "Artist Works Catalogues"]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Leon Golub — (* 23. Januar 1922 in Chicago; † 8. August 2004 in New York) war ein US amerikanischer Maler und Grafiker des Amerikanischen Realismus. Sein Studium an der University of Chicago schloss er 1942 mit dem BA ab. Daran schloss sich ein Kunststudium… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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  • GOLUB, LEON — (1922–2004), U.S. painter and printmaker. Chicago born Golub received a B.A. in art history from the University of Chicago (1942) and a BFA (1949) and MFA (1950) from the Art Institute of Chicago. Although he did not experience combat, his… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Golub — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Gene H. Golub (1932–2007), US amerikanischer Mathematiker Leon Golub (1922−2004), US amerikanischer Maler und Grafiker des Amerikanischen Realismus Abraham Golub, auch Avraham Tory (1909–2001), jüdischer… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Golub, Leon — ▪ 2005       American painter (b. Jan. 21, 1922, Chicago, Ill. d. Aug. 8, 2004, New York, N.Y.), expressed his strong opposition to the Vietnam War through his series of paintings entitled Napalm, Vietnam, and Assassins. His monumental paintings… …   Universalium

  • Nancy Spero — Nancy Spero, in her New York Studio, 1973. Born August 24, 1926(1926 08 24) Cleveland, Ohio …   Wikipedia

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  • ART — This article is arranged according to the following outline: Antiquity to 1800 INTRODUCTION: JEWISH ATTITUDE TO ART biblical period the sanctuary and first temple period second temple period after the fall of jerusalem relation to early christian …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • SPERO, NANCY — (1926–), U.S. painter. Cleveland born, feminist artist Nancy Spero studied at the Art Institute of Chicago (1945–49) and at the Atelier André l Hote and the Ecole des Beaux Arts (1949–50) in Paris. While at the Art Institute, she met the artist… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

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