Leon Berkowitz

Leon  Berkowitz


Born in Philadelphia (1911-1987), Leon Berkowitz was best known as a Washington painter, having spent more than forty years in this city. Berkowitz studied at the University of Pennsylvania, the Art Students League in New York, and in Paris, Florence, and Mexico City. During World War II he was in the Army, stationed in Virginia, and in 1945, after completing his military service, he moved to Washington, D.C. He painted and taught art for more than ten years in D.C. high schools and later, in 1969, at The Corcoran Gallery’s School of Art, where he was chairman of the painting department. He continued to teach there for almost twenty years, until his death in 1987.

With his first wife, the poet Ira Fox Berkowitz, Leon Berkowitz established the Washington Workshop Center for the Arts in 1945. This Center became a cultural catalyst in the city, bringing together leaders in both the performing and visual arts, including painters such as Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, and Gene Davis, who would later become well-known founders of the Washington Color School group. The Workshop Center closed in 1956, and Berkowitz and his wife spent much of the next decade traveling and living abroad, primarily in Spain and Wales. It was during this sabbatical from his life in Washington that his painting took a new direction, and it is this late work for which he is best known.

By the 1970s, Berkowitz’s paintings had become completely abstract, suffused with mists of color and light. Though he was often associated with the Color School painters, he vigorously denied that connection, asserting instead that his floating washes of color carried light, and through light, a spiritual presence. And, indeed, the intense white ground used to prime his canvases radiates light, creating a luminous, color-drenched atmospheric effect. In a statement for an exhibition of his work at The Phillips Collection in 1976 he said, “I am endeavoring to find that blush of light over light and the color within the light; the depths through which we see when we look into and not at color.”




(1911 - 1987)


Pennsylvania Museum School, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Art Students League, New York, New York
Academie, Grand Chaumjere, Paris, France
Academie de Pelles Artes, Florence, Italy
Mexico City College, Mexico City, Mexico


Workshop Center for the Arts: Teacher, Program Director
American University, Washington, D.C.: Lecturer
Catholic University, Washington, D.C.: Lecturer
Western High School, Washington, D.C.: Art Teacher
Academie de Pelles Artes, Barcelona, Spain: Honorary Professor
Art League of Alexandria, Alexandria, Virginia: Painting Seminar
Corcoran School of Art, Washington, D.C.: Professor of Art


Winner of Purchase Prize in the Second Flint Invitational, 1970, Flint, Michigan
Among 20 American artists receiving $7,500 grant from the National Foundation
for Arts and Humanities, 1970-1971
Paintings in the collection of the National Collection Fine Arts, Washington,
D.C., loaned to the White House Executive Wing, 1979-1971
Awarded chair in painting, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1982

Selected Individual Exhibitions:

1953           Watkins Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1956           Watkins Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1962           Bishop’s Palace, St. David’s, Wales, United Kingdom (with poet Ida Fox)
1963           Scott Rader Commonwealth, Wollaston, England (with poet Ida Fox)
                   New Art Center Gallery, London, England
1964           Rina Gallery, Jerusalem, Israel (with poet Ida Fox)
1965           Mickelson Gallery, Washington, D.C. (with poet Ida Fox)
1966           Esther Stuttman Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1969           Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
                   A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, New York
1970           Guelph University, Ontario, Canada
1972           Pyramid Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1973           Klingpitcher Gallery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
                   Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1974           Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York
1975           Museum of University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
                   Chapman Kelley Gallery, Dallas, Texas
1976           Corcoran Gallery of Art, “Seven Lights”, Washington, D.C.
1977           The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
                   National Academy of Science, Washington, D.C.
                   Middendorf Gallery, Washington, D.C.
                   Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, Illinois
                   Chapman Kelley Gallery, Dallas, Texas
1978           Hodgell Hartman Gallery, Sarasota, Florida
                   Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg, Florida
                   Virginia Miller Gallery, Miami, Florida
1979           B.R. Kornblatt Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland
1980           Jacksonville Art Museum, Jacksonville, Florida
                   Middendorf Lane Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1982           Middendorf Lane Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1985           Baumgartner Galleries Inc., “Beyond Color”, Washington, D.C.
1986           Baumgartner Galleries Inc., “Algonquit”, Washington, D.C.
1987           Baumgartner Galleries Inc., “Luminositites”, Washington, D.C.
1988           Baumgartner Galleries Inc., “Unities”, Washington, D.C.
1989           Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, “Recent Acquisitions Show”, Washington,
                              D.C. Baumgartner Galleries Inc., Washington, D.C.
2003           ACA Galleries, NY
2007           Edison Place Gallery, DC
                   Hemphill Fine Arts, DC
2009           Gary Snyder Project Space, New York, NY “Cathedral Paintings”
2012           ACA Galleries, NY

Selected Group Exhibitions:

1949           Mexico City College, Mexico City, Mexico
1954           Workshop Center for the Arts Faculty Shows, Washington, D.C.
1954           Barnet Aden Gallery, Washington, D.C. “Abstractions: New York and Washington
                   Artists”(with Louis, Davis, Pereira and Stamos)
1964           Mykonos Art Gallery, Greece
1957           National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
                   Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
1958           Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1960           Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1966           Jewish Community Center, Washington, D.C. “Washington Collects Washingtonians”
1967           Corcoran Biennial, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1970           American Federation of Arts, Traveling Exhibition
1968           Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., “Organic Forms in Painting”
1969           Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg, Florida and Loch Haven Art Center, Orlando
                              Florida, “Color in Control” (with Albers, Bolotowsky, Davis, Ferren, Hehring,
                              Morris Sander) A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, New York
                   Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida
                   Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut, “Highlights 1968-69,
                              New York Art Season” (with Alechinsky, Christensen, Flavin, Hesse, Ohlson,
                              Sander and Serra) Jacksonville Art Museum, Jacksonville, Florida
1970           A.M. Sachs Gallery, New York, New York
                   Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland, “Washington: 20 Years”,
                   (with Louis, Noland, Davis, and Kainen)
                              Second Flint Invitational, Flint, Michigan
1972           New York State Fair, Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York and New York
                              Cultural Center, New York, New York, “Envio-Vision”, (Design for mural for multiple
                              outdoor locations in New York State).
                   Annual Trustee Selection Show, Baltimore Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
                              Philadelphia Collectors Show, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,
                               “Inside Philadelphia”, (with Albers, Botero, Christo, Cornell, de Kooning, Dine,
                              Gorky, Hofman, Indiana, Johns, Kline, Lichtenstein, Miro, Morris, Mothewell,
                              Nevelson, Oldenburg, Rauschenburg, Reinhardt, Smith and Tobey)
1973           St. Petersburg Museum of Fine Art, St. Petersburg, Florida; Loch Haven Art Center,
                              Orlando, Florida; and Lemoyne Art Foundation, Tallahassee, Florida, “Flowing
                              Form”, (with Louis, Francis, Frankenthaler, Jenkins, Brooks, Dzubas)
1974           Pratt Institute, New York, New York, “Recent Abstract Painting”
                              Adams Davidson Galleries, Inc., Washington D.C., “Washington Invitational”
                              Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, “Contemporary Religious Imagery in
                              American Art”, (with Botero, Dove, Gottlieb, Graves, Lipton, Nevelson, Newman,
                              Pereira, Tobey, and Weber)
1978           Art Sources, Inc., Jacksonville, Florida, “Six Contemporary Painters”, (with
                              Anuszkiewicz, Jenkins Natkin, Solomon)
1979           Hodgell-Hartman Gallery, Sarasota, Florida
                   B.R. Kornblatt Gallery, Baltimore, Maryland
                   McKissick Museum, Columbia, South Carolina
                   Middendorf/Lane Gallery, Washington, D.C.
1984           The Art Barn, Washington, D.C., “Color As Light”
1985           WPA, Washington, D.C., “Art in Washington, Afro-American Presence 1940-1970” Corcoran Gallery of Art,
                              Washington, D.C., “Washington Show”
                   Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., Permanent Washington Color School
2008           Gary Snyder Project Space, New York, NY “New American Abstraction”
2008           Gary Snyder Project Space, New York, NY “Color Field Revisited”

Selected Public Collections:

Des Moines Museum, Des Moines, Iowa
Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, New York
Federal Museum Bank, Richmond, Virginia
Flint Institute of Art, Flint, Michigan
Four Murals-Sequences, Harris Bank, Chicago, Illinois
Golda Meir Collection, Jerusalem, Israel
Harris National Trust, Chicago, Illinois
High Museum of Art, Atlanta Georgia
Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
James Michener Collection, Austin, Texas
Jones and Laughlin Steel Inc., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Megatrends, Limited, Washington, D.C.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York
Museum of University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Oklahoma Art Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.
Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, Arizona
Ringling Museum, Sarasota, Florida
St. Petersburg Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina
Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, North Carolina
Steelcase Inc., Grand Rapids, Michigan

Selected Bibliography:

“Abstract Art Goes to the Workshops”, London Guardian, May 9, 1963.
Ahlander, Leslie Judd, “Preface”, Flowing Form, Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida,
ARTE Americana Contemporanea (catalog), Colecao da Embaixada Amercicana no Brazil,
Baro, Gene, “Forward”, The Unities; One-Man Show, Pyramid Gallery, Washington, D.C, 1972.
Burton, Scott, “Color it Berkowitz”, Art News, March, 1969.
Benbow, Charles, “Optical Gymnastics: ‘Color in Control’ Explored”, St. Petersburg Times,
           September 22, 1969.
Berkowitz, Leon, “Statement of the Artist”, Big Bend Series 1976, The Phillips Collection,
           Washington, D.C. and the Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, Illinois, 1977.
Berkowitz, Leon, “Leon Berkowitz: Writings,” An Exhibition of Current Painting by Leon
           Berkowitz: The Sound of Light, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and the
           Everson Museum of Art Syracuse, New York, 1973, 1974.
Blum, Fred II., “Forward,” Leon Berkowitz, Bishop’s Palace, St. David’s, Wales, United
           Kingdom, 1962.
Coe, Marian, “Reaction Range: ‘Wow’ to ‘Whew’”, St. Petersburg Times, September 22, 1969.
Corbino, Marcia, “A Conversation with Leon Berkowitz,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune,
           February 19, 1978.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art, The Corcoran and Washington Art, Washington Art, Washington,
           D.C., 1976.
Crumlish, Rebecca and Hechler, Timothy, An Afternoon with Leon Berkowitz, (video tape),
           Osiris Productions, Washington, D.C. and the Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, Illinois, 1977.
Davis, Douglas, “Introduction”, Leon Berkowitz; Big Bend Series 1976, The Phillips Collection,
           Washington, D.C. and the The Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, Illinois, 1977.
Davis, Douglas, “Newsletter,” Arts Magazine, Summer, 1969.
Davis, Gene, “Starting Out in the ‘50’s,” Art in America, July-August, 1978.
Downs, Terry, “The Kinetic Artist of Kalorama Rd., Leon Berkowitz: Teacher, Painter,
           Dynamo,” The Washington Post, March 20, 1983.
Drath, Viola, “Introduction,” Leon Berkowitz: Big Bend Series 1976, The Phillips Collection,
           Washington D.C. and the Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, Illinois, 1977.
Drath, Viola, “The Master Artist: Leon Berkowitz”, The Washington Dossier, May 1977.
Drath, Viola, “Was ist los in Washingotn?”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Frankfurt,
           Germany, August 9, 1974.
Exhibitions Catalogue, The Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield Connecticut,
           Fall, 1972.
Forgey, Benjamin, “Berkowitz Earns His Beard”, Washington Evening Star, April, 1972.
Forgey, Benjamin, “Galleries: Challenging Convention”, The Washington Sunday Star,
           April 3, 1977.
Forgey, Benjamin, “A Late Bloomers Released Energy,” The Washington Sunday Star,
           September, 16, 1963.
Forgey, Benjamin, “Review”, Art News, Summer, 1977
Fox, Ida, “In Spaces of Land, Sea and Sky”, Leon Berkowitz: Big Bend Series 1976,
           The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. and The Chicago Arts Club, Chicago,
           Illinois, 1977.
Fox, Ida, “Three Poems on a Painting by Leon Berkowitz”, In The Wind, Antiphon Press, 1970.
Frankenstein, Alfred, “Review” San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle, March, 1969.
The Gallery Guide, Cover Story, New York, New York, 1969.
Getlein, Frank, “Review” Washington Evening Star, Washington, D.C., November 1966.
Haacke, Lorraine, “Berkowitz: Exploring the Realm of Light”, Dallas Times-Herald,
           April 20 1975.
Hairthas, James, “Forward,” Recent Paintings by Leon Berkowitz, The Corcoran Gallery of Art,
Washington, D.C., 1969.
Harithas, James. “The Washington Painters”, Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, Florida, 1969.
Haritahs, James, “Introduction”, An Exhibition of Current Paintings by Leon Berkowitz: Sound
           of Light, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., and the Everson Museum of Art,
           Syracuse, New York, 1973.
Heymann, Ann W.., “Leon Berkowitz at Virginia Miller”, Art Voices/South, September-October
Kainen, Jacob, Leon Berkowitz, Watkins Gallery, Washington, D.C. 1953.
Martin, Robert, “Artist as Colorful as His Painting”, The Tampa Times, February 24, 1978.
McLaughlin, James, “Forward”, Leon Berkowitz: Big Bend Series 1976, The Phillips Collection,
           Washington, D.C. and the Chicago Arts Club, Chicago, Illinois, 1977.
Millet, Donald, “Berkowitz Paintings”, Pittsburgh Gazette, February 10, 1973.
Muck, Gordon, Art Views and News”, Syracuse Post-Standard, March 4, 1974.
Naylor, Colin and Porridge, Genesis (ed.), Contemporary Artists, “Leon Berkowitz”, St. James
           Press, London, England, and St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 1978.
The New York Times, “Hippies Crash Preview”, February 21, 1969.
Press, Jacques Cottell (ed.), “Leon Berkowitz, Painter” Who’s Who In American Art, R.R.
           Bowker, New York, New York, 1976.
Pilgrim, James F., “The Art of Leon Berkowitz”, Recent Paintings by Leon Berkowitz, Corcoran
           Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. 1969.
Portner, Leslie Judd, “Art in Washington”, Washington Post, December 9, 1956.
Richards, Paul, “Catalyst for Color Painters” Washington Post, April, 1972.
Ritterbush, Phillip C., The Art of Organic Forms, The Smithsonian Institution Press,
           Washington, D.C., 1968.
Ronnen, Meir, “Review”, Jerusalem Post, September 20, 1964.
Ruhe, Benjamin, “Visual Arts: When You’re Hot”, The Washingtonian, Washington, D.C.
           December, 1978.
Schaff, David, “Notes on Leon Berkowitz,” Art International, February, 1978.
Schjeldahl, Peter, “New York Letter”, Art International, September, 1969.
Seagrave, Wendy, “77 People to Watch in ‘77”, The Washingtonian, Washington, D.C.
           December, 1976.
Secrest, Merle, “Attentive Introspection,” Washington Post, June, 1969.
Secrest, Merle, “Light in Painting”, Washington Post, November 27, 1969.
Slade, Roy, “Preface”, An Exhibition of Current Painting by Leon Berkowitz: The Sound of
           Light, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. and Everson Museum of Art, New
           York, 1973.
Smith, Kenneth Coutts, “Review”, Arts Review, London, England, November-December, 1963.
Tannous, David, “Art: Mysterious and Perspectives,” Woodwind, Washington, D.C.
           November 14, 1973.
Tannous, David, “Leon Berkowitz at The Phillips Collection and at Middendorf”, Art in America,
           July-August, 1977.
Tannous, David, “Those Who Stay, Interviews by David Taanous: Leon Berkowitz”, Art in
           America, July-August, 1978.
Welzenbach, Michael, “Guiding Light”, Washington Post, December 21, 1984.
Washington Theatre Guide, “Berkowitz”, Leon Berkowitz, Excerpts, Spring/Winter 1986.
Lewis, Jo Ann, “Berkowitz: A Career in Color,” The Washington Post, May 4, 1985.
Welzenbach, Michael, “Leon Berkowitz at Baumgartner,” The Washington Times, May 9, 1985.
Rand, Harry, “Leon Berkowitz”, Arts Magazine, Summer, 1985.
Power, Mark, “Berkowitz at Baumgartner’s” The Washington Post, May 16, 1986.
Mahoney, J.W., “Leon Berkowitz: Baumgartner Galleries”, The New Art Examiner, September,
Berkowitz, Leon, “Speakeasy”, The New Art Examiner, November, 1986.
“Algonquit”, invitation, Baumgartner Galleries, May, 1986.
Rose, Robin, “Electric Light”, Museum & Arts Washington, May/June, 1989.



David Richard Gallery, LLC
The New York gallery will be closed from July 16 - September 4 for summer break
211 East 121st Street, New York, NY 10035 | p (212) 882-1705
10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. Wednesday - Saturday or by appointment

1570 Pacheco Street, E2, Santa Fe, NM 87505 | p (505) 983-9555 | f (505) 983-1284
10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Tuesday - Saturday, or by appointment

Mobile Version