Born in Kansas City, Missouri.
Studies at the Kansas City Art Institute, where he paints a series of watercolors he calls “interior landscapes” related to caves in the Ozarks, rivers, campfires and other forms of nature. Attends Westport Junior High School where his teacher Marjorie Patterson encourages him to explore poetry, writing and drama. On weekends, works in a ceramic factory with ceramist James Weldon where he becomes intrigued by glazes fusing and transforming color under extreme heat. Frequently visits the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art [then the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art], where he is strongly affected by the Asian collection. Meets Frank Lloyd Wright in 1940 when his great-uncle, the Reverend Burris Jenkins, pastor of the First Community Church in Kansas City, Missouri, commissioned Wright to rebuild his church after a fire. On his great-uncle’s suggestion, Jenkins visits with Thomas Hart Benton at his home to discuss his wish to be a painter.
I found [the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art] and its grounds, which I used to walk out to see almost every night, a sanctuary for me, where I could commune not only with nature and the beautiful terrace gardening which surrounded the building, but also a certain knowledge that inside that building was a kind of nature made by man, which I grew to trust and live with.
Letter from the artist to Albert E. Elsen, May 28, 1969
From the United States Maritime Service, enters the United States Naval Air Corps in 1944 and serves as a pharmacist’s mate. He paints a series of watercolors of Kabuki dancers during his time in the Naval Air Corps and makes what the art historian Albert E. Elsen, author of Paul Jenkins, published by Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1973, describes as “Durer-esque” black and white graphite drawings. After his discharge from the service in March of 1946, studies playwriting with George McCalmon at Carnegie Institute of Technology and paints and draws on his own.
Moves to New York City to study on the G.I. Bill at the Art Students League with Yasuo Kuniyoshi for four years and with Morris Kantor. "The abstract quality I was drawn to in Kuniyoshi's work was the moisture in it....The quality of moisture is life, a thing which breathes has moisture. This is a felt quality in painting." In 1951 meets Mark Rothko in the cafeteria at the Art Students League. Jenkins is attracted to the “quite apparent mystery of luminosity” in Rothko’s work. The two artists live a block apart and often meet at Jerry’s Bar. Frequently visits the Frick Museum. Meets Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman at an art dealer’s home in New York. Invited by Martha Graham to watch her dance classes, Jenkins makes several drawings of her. Sees Mark Tobey’s retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1951 and comes to know the artist in the early Fifties. Jenkins’ work shows the influence of Tobey’s “white writing” after he settles in Europe in 1953. Beginning in 1950 Jenkins works with a variety of media but always relies on a liquid binder to allow the pigments to flow or spread. [Elsen, 24]
Two key works of this period are The Emissary, 1948 and Sea Escape, 1951. The first is a predecessor of Jenkins’ veil paintings with the heavily turpentine-drenched medium allowed to cascade in rivulets across the bottom of the canvas [Elsen, 38]. In the second, painted on Fire Island, New York, Jenkins uses actual sea water and realizes the benefit of working wet-on-wet. With Sea Escape Jenkins experiences a tactile sense of entity of something imaginary rather than representational. Albert E. Elsen describes the work “as if one is looking at both the surface and subsurface of the sea.”
In January travels to Europe, first visiting Genoa and Naples, then staying in Taormina, Sicily before continuing to Seville and Madrid, where he is deeply moved by the Prado. Arrives in Paris in March, first living at a hotel on the rue de Seine, then acquiring an apartment on the rue Notre Dame des Champs. Works also at the American Artists’ Center. Through Claire Falkenstein, is introduced to Mark Tobey. Meets American art dealer Zoe Dusanne from Seattle and brings her to Jean Dubuffet’s studio on the rue de Vaugirard and to Sam Francis’ studio on the rue Tiphaine. Meets the French critic Michel Tapié after reading his seminal 1952 book, Un Art Autre.
Is drawn to the structure and inherent richness of color in the abstract ébauches of Gustave Moreau which he discovers in the back room of the Gustave Moreau Museum in Paris. Is greatly impressed by the luminous density in the pastels of Odilon Redon seen in his exhibition at the Orangerie. In the drawings and prints, Jenkins is drawn to their “infinite value going to very deep dark black, to an almost silvery gray, to a luminous white.” [quoted in Elsen, 43] Discovers the I Ching: The Confucian Book of Changes and Psychology and Alchemy by Carl Gustav Jung. The central theme of the I Ching, the continuous change and transformation that underlies all existence, connects with Jenkins’ own thinking about life and painting and confirms his interest in flowing paint materials. [Nordland, 12] After reading Psychology and Alchemy, increasingly mixes various things with water, as well as powdered mineral and chemical pigments with different liquid mediums. [Elsen, 52] Reads Eugen Herrigel’s Zen in the Art of Archery. In his introduction to the book, Dr. D.T. Suzuki summarizes the importance in Japan of archery’s training of the mind: “One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.”
Working flat and pouring paint on canvas and paper provides Jenkins with a more dynamic sense of totality and mass as opposed to filling in one given area at a time. In the second half of 1953, Jenkins’ paintings come to depend on spontaneity formally, as well as thematically. For the artist, the pouring method solved the problem of “how to sense the total scale and control movement” in his work. By liquefying his medium, Jenkins was also becoming more conscious of the chemistry of colors, reviving his early interest in fusing glazes at the ceramic factory. Working with copper enamel pigments he realized the alchemic nature in his work, “the idea of transformation, taking ordinary matter and imbuing it with mystery, not familiarity.” [Elsen, 50-52]
First solo exhibition is held at Studio Paul Facchetti in Paris. Critics Kenneth B. Sawyer of the Paris Herald Tribune and James Fitzsimmons of Arts and Architecture give the exhibition serious attention. Prior to the exhibition, Sam Francis brings Peggy Guggenheim to Studio Facchetti to see Jenkins’ work. Sales from the first exhibition and a subsequent solo exhibition in Frankfurt allow Jenkins to leave the American Artists’ Center to set up a studio on rue Decrès. There he executes works on a larger scale and with greater emphasis on color. [Nordland, 16] Meets New York dealer Martha Jackson and London dealers Peter, Charles and Jean Gimpel. Travels to the Venice Biennale. Works with Winsor Newton powdered pigments and chrysochrome, a viscous enamel paint.
"Jenkins' use of chrysochrome enamel was a form of problem-solving, for it replaced the earlier etching of his painted surfaces and gave him a more spontaneous, fluid resource with which to find simultaneously a reflected and a luminous light, and to create form rather than simply a graphic counterpoint to his color."
Albert E. Elsen, Paul Jenkins, p.63
First solo exhibition in the United States at the Zoe Dusanne Gallery in Seattle. The Seattle Art Museum purchases three works on paper: Indian Grass, 1953, Lunar Moth, 1954 and Scope. Martha Jackson invites Jenkins to become a member of her gallery and he participates in his first group show there. In New York comes to know Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt, Philip Guston, and with George Wittenborn, meets Robert Motherwell. Jenkins and Pollock see each other regularly in 1955-1956 at the Cedar Street Tavern. Travels to London from Paris to see Mark Tobey’s exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts. James Johnson Sweeney, Director of the Guggenheim Museum, shows interest in Jenkins’ work, which he saw at Michel Tapié’s in Paris. The Guggenheim later acquires The Prophecy, a large-scale work painted in 1956.
I was delighted to have the opportunity to make a selection of your paintings for I think that you show a great deal of promise.
Letter to the artist from Richard E. Fuller, Director of the Seattle Museum, March 19, 1955
Visits Rothko's studio on the west side of New York City, now the site of Lincoln Center.
First New York solo exhibition, Oils by Paul Jenkins, at the Martha Jackson Gallery in March with catalogue texts by the critics Kenneth B. Sawyer and James Fitzsimmons. Black Dahlia is one of sixteen oils exhibited. In this exhibition, Jenkins’ use of chrysochrome enamel “drawing” emerges. Working directly from a tube or with a brush enables him to create precise, dictated white lines. These lines are an homage to Pollock’s skeins and Tobey’s white writing, but act as an event marginal to the whole composition and not the basis of its structure. [Elsen, 62]
One may be tempted to consider [Jenkins’] work in the negative terms of what he has discarded: recognizable matter, deep perspective, contained composition, even the standard procedures of brush technique.
Perhaps the most consistent quality in Jenkins’ art is the obvious mastery of projecting and receding masses; even his quietest oils refuse to lie dormant on the walls, refuse to be contained in their dimensions.
Excerpts from 1956 Martha Jackson Gallery catalogue text by Kenneth B. Sawyer.
John I. H. Baur buys Divining Rod, 1956 for the Whitney Museum of American Art from the Martha Jackson exhibition. With this work, Jenkins now feels able to handle larger scale, having developed his own painter’s arsenal.
I am as pleased as you that we could acquire Divining Rod for the Museum’s collection. It is a picture that has haunted me since I saw it at your first one-man exhibition.
Letter to the artist, John I.H. Baur, Curator, Whitney Museum of American Art, February 18, 1957
Observations of Michel Tapié, co-edited by Paul Jenkins, is published by George Wittenborn in New York.
Visits Jackson Pollock's studio in The Springs and sees his recent paintings, as well as a series of black and white drawings to be shown at the Gimpel Fils Gallery in London. On his return to New York City, gives Pollock a copy of Herrigal's Zen in the Art of Archery, presently in the library of the Pollock-Krasner House in The Springs. Returns to Paris in the spring. After a visit to see the Gimpels in Ménerbes in July, Lee Krasner stays at Jenkins’ studio on the rue Decrès in Paris, where she later receives a call from Clement Greenberg about Pollock’s fatal car accident on August 11.
Peggy Guggenheim buys Osage from Jenkins’ solo exhibition at the Galerie Stadler, Paris.
Exchanges studios with Joan Mitchell; he works in her St. Mark’s Place studio in New York and she works in his atelier on the rue Decrès in Paris.
Meets James Jones (author of From Here to Eternity and The Thin Red Line) and his wife Gloria in New York and they become lifelong friends.
At the Gutai exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in New York, is invited by Jiro Yoshihara to work with the Gutai in Osaka, an invitation he does not implement until 1964.
Jenkins with his fund of luminous and delicate effects demonstrates further possibilities of the post-Action painters’ technique. Transparent glazes stretch like membranes over indeterminate voids.
Lawrence Alloway, Exploration of Paint catalogue essay
From these two sources- reflection and radiation- I have tried to achieve a kind of form in its own discovered space, a kind of light which reveals itself from within, while the reflected element affirms itself from without.
Paul Jenkins, quoted in Elsen, 29.
If the recent canvases of Jenkins are compared to works he exhibited with Facchetti in March of 1954, it is clear that the artist, since his return from America, has evolved toward a chromatic unleashing of his palette, the major tones evoking at times De Kooning’s violently clashing colors.
Pierre Restany, Cimaise, 1957 mai-juin, 4ème serie, no.5.
Where gestural painting was very much the vogue of 1956-1959, and many painters worked in heavy impasto to achieve desired effects, Jenkins was using a series of very thin flows and veils… Jenkins had achieved a new imagery which was a compound of his method, his materials and his vision.
Gerald Nordland, catalogue text, Paul Jenkins Retrospective, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston [October 12-December 12, 1971] and the San Francisco Museum of Art [January 6-February 27, 1972].
At Joan Mitchell’s St. Mark’s Place studio in New York in late 1957, begins the paintings entitled Eyes of the Dove which continue into 1959. The title is inspired by a story told by Harold Rosenberg of a rabbi whose central tenet is, “The eyes of the dove see everything but never the same thing twice.” These works are painted predominantly on 30 x 40 inch canvases allowing Jenkins to prove a restricted size can take on different dimensions. As Jenkins said to Jean Cassou in a 1963 interview, “There I discovered that one painting might seem to contract and concentrate, fold into itself, but another might appear to expand beyond its borders. All achieved a difference of scale.” This series of about forty paintings lays the way for the white ground of the Phenomena works starting in 1959.
Joseph Hirshhorn buys Dakota Ridge, 1958 from Jenkins’ solo exhibition at the Martha Jackson Gallery in November.
Exhibits Black Dahlia, 1956 among other works in Nature in Abstraction at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Jenkins’ 1958 paintings are dense conglomerates of strong, textured color with a marked tendency to the vortex and labyrinthine.
You sure do orchestrate your color and direct it like a director. Such things it will do for you, subtle and dynamic.
Letter to the artist from Mark Tobey, December 3, 1958
Studies the writing of Kant and Goethe with particular attention to their thoughts on color and perception. This inspires him to title his canvases Phenomena, followed by a key phrase or word.
Titles for me are like names on a map of the artist’s world. I try to find the identity word that will secure an attitude towards the painting rather than provoke a visual object that the eye will seek out.
The artist quoted in Cassou, Jenkins, 1963, p. 14
Jenkins begins to experiment with dry pigments suspended in acrimedium, and continues to work in oil. This year marks the beginning of a gradual transition towards acrylic.
Receives a large quantity of Italian rag paper by Philip Pavia who encourages him to pursue working with watercolor.
To guide the flow of paint, starts using an ivory Eskimo knife he received the previous year as a gift.
[The ivory knife] was found to control and make precise designations and fusions at the same time, and to carry the color into a vast area as well as a contracted form which could be dictated by the ivory knife. With the smooth organic surface of the ivory I could use great pressure against the sensitive tooth of the canvas. It wouldn’t abrade, like a metal knife would.
Paul Jenkins, quoted in Elsen, 66.
In Paris, the author James Jones is the first to buy a painting from the Eyes of the Dove series, titled Eyes of the Dove- Turtle Gold.
Solo exhibition of works from the Eyes of the Dove series at the Galerie Stadler, Paris with catalogue statement by Clement Greenberg who calls Jenkins “One of the most individual painters of his time.”
Travels to Barcelona and then Porta della Selva, Spain where he works extensively in watercolor, experiencing a new fluency with the medium. This intensifies his interest in acrylic which will become his preferred medium for painting on canvas. Meets the poet and critic Juan-Eduardo Cirlot in Barcelona. When Jenkins returns to Paris from Spain, Sam Francis purchases Phenomena Over Albi, 1960, now in the San Francisco Museum of Art.
Works in a small light-filled studio at 537 East 12th Street in New York. Included in William Rubin’s article “Younger American Painters,” in Art International (January 1960). Solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Sons in London is reviewed in The Times (London) and in Burlington Magazine. Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery receives reviews in Art News (Irving Sandler), The New York Herald Tribune (Carlyle Burroughs), and The New York Times (Stuart Preston).
Paul Jenkins encounters his images in the ebb and flow of translucent pools of thinned pigment which he pours onto his canvases. Chance plays an important role, but accidental effects are made a function of the interaction of reflected and refracted light.
Irving Sandler, Art News, Summer 1960
The labyrinthine geological forms that had been present in earlier work are retained but set out against an ambiguous white space. There is a compositional decisiveness thrusting against each corner of the canvas, ambiguously flat and yet suggestive of both softness and stone-like solidity.
Gerald Nordland, describing the artist's painting, Phenomena After Image, 1960, Paul Jenkins Retrospective, 1971-1972, p. 21
Paints a series of watercolors in Joan Mitchell's atelier on rue Frémicourt in Paris and in New York in the fall. Regards paper as a “tireless material with uncanny strength in spite of its fragility.”
First exhibition at the Galerie Karl Flinker in Paris; James Jones writes the catalogue text, “Moving Shapes without Name,” which is also published with illustrations in Art International. The exhibition continues the evolution of the image against a white ground and also includes the recent development of monochrome paintings. The exhibition is reviewed by John Ashbery in The New York Herald Tribune (Paris) and in an article titled “Liquid Form” in Time magazine (April 7, 1961). Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson reviewed in Art News, Arts Magazine, and Art International.
The Paintings of Paul Jenkins is published by Editions Two Cities in Paris with text by Kenneth B. Sawyer, Pierre Restany, and James Fitzsimmons. Writes “Gustave Moreau: Moot Grandfather of Abstraction” published in Art News (December 1961). Sam Francis purchases Phenomena Over Albi, 1960 from the artist in Paris. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum purchases Phenomena Pen Dragon, 1961. The artist senses "a change coming on" in his work. [letter from the artist to Zoe Dusanne, 1961]
Jenkins' work has a sumptuous but he-man quality that makes one look around for comparisons with American literature: Melville, Whitman or Hart Crane.
John Ashbery, New York Herald Tribune (Paris), March 8, 1961
A gradual encroachment of granular veils in his paintings reveals a new sense of substance integrated on the canvas and "another kind of light, a reflecting or incandescent light." (Albert E. Elsen, p. 77) The artist continues his exploration of monochrome paint on canvas, as shown in Phenomena Continental Drift, 1962 and the grisaille work, Phenomena Druid Altar, 1962. Travels in Europe. Meets the art historian Albert E. Elsen in Paris. Writes “A Quiet Legend,” an article about the painter Beauford Delaney, published in Art International (December 1962).
Lee Nordness includes the artist's work in his forthcoming exhibition and catalogue, Art USA Now. Exhibits watercolors at the Galerie Karl Flinker in Paris, reviewed in The New York Herald Tribune (Paris) by John Ashbery, Le Monde, The Times (London), and Art News. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum purchases The Prophecy, 1956. Esquire magazine publishes an article titled “Paris in the Sixties: The Great Upsurge”by David Schoenbrunfeaturing Jenkins with James Jones, Irwin Shaw, the poet Jean Fanchette, Jean-Luc Godard, and others (February 1962).
In their search for these incandescent images, artists like Paul Jenkins have dared to experiment with unconventional methods of painting. Jenkins paints by indirection. Placing the canvas horizontally, he pours pigment onto the surfaces, controlling the flow of confluent colours to produce opaque and transparent overlays that reflect and refract an infinite variety of lights.
Irving Sandler, catalogue text, Galerie Charles Lienhard, Zurich
Publication of Jenkins by Jean Cassou, Éditions de la Galerie Karl Flinker, Paris. In Paris, David Douglas Duncan photographs the artist at work using a prismatic spectrum lens. In the 1963-64 paintings, Jenkins re-engages in the experience and painting of“emotional color and at the same time holding to the original commitment of doing images which have decisive impact against a white ambiance with an interacting relationship." [the artist quoted in Elsen, Paul Jenkins, p. 72]
Returning to New York in November, Jenkins takes over Willem de Kooning’s loft at 831 Broadway as de Kooning is building a new studio in the Hamptons.
I too had a dream,… that I would, once and for all have the right kind of studio to work in… and a nice place to live. And,… eventually… I will I guess. But what an effort!! I will be so old when it will finish itself… Still, in the end… with your color and things like that… I feel the place will serve you good. Anyhow, I hope from the bottom of my heart that I did not make you unhappy with the place.
Letter from Willem de Kooning to Paul Jenkins 1963-64
Solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Sons reviewed in Connoisseur, Arts Review, Burlington Magazine, The New York Herald Tribune (Paris), The Times (London), and The Observer (London). Phenomena Play of Trance is reproduced in color on the cover of Art International (February 1963). Aujourd'hui (January 1963) publishes an article by Berto Morucchio which features Phenomena Ramashandra Ramashandra, 1962 among the works illustrated. Phenomena Big Blue,1960-61 is shown at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in an international group exhibition and is described “as the dominating example” (Art Voices, February 1963). The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum acquires Phenomena Blue Carrier, 1965. The collector David Kluger donates Phenomena Lunar Scarab, 1959-60 to the List Visual Art Center of MIT.
The movements of circulation, expansion and contraction, the pour of color, is intermingling and interaction, the long oblique filaments of hues weaving between separated zones, animated by a life of their own, all these elements are signs of protest against the limiting boundaries of our world.
Juan Eduardo Cirlot, “The World of Paul Jenkins,” Studio, March 1963
Then the forms became denser, more unified and more sharply defined, and began to pull back from the edges of the canvas… They were living, vociferating events; colors, shapes and atmosphere unimaginable without one another, joined together through their unique 'way of happening' which Jenkins had helped them to.
John Ashbery, catalogue text, Arthur Tooth & Sons, London 1963
Filming begins in Jenkins’ Broadway studio of The Ivory Knife: Paul Jenkins at Work, produced by Martha Jackson and directed by Jules Engel. James Jones writes the catalogue text “Roulette Player Playing the Wheel” for the artist’s solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery.
Travels to Japan for his solo exhibition at the Tokyo Gallery, which takes place during the 1964 Olympics. Numerous treasures are on special exhibition by the National Museum at this time. Jiro Yoshihara, painter and founder of the Gutai, attends the exhibition and encourages Jenkins to accept his 1958 invitation to come to Osaka. Jenkins travels to Osaka where he works for several months with the Gutai. At the suggestion of Joseph Campbell, visits the Shinto shrine of Ise and writes to Mark Tobey about his experiences there. Jenkins travels with British potter Bernard Leach to see the work of the Japanese ceramist Shoji Hamada.
Travels to India where he visits Bombay, Agra and the Ajanta caves in Aurangabad. In New Delhi, sees broad lengths of fabric drying on the ground and is struck by the independence of man-made colors against the landscape. While in India, works in watercolor.
First retrospective takes place at the Kestner-Gesellschaft of Hanover, with catalogue text by Wieland Schmied and a text by the artist, “A Moment of Retrospect.” Jenkins is cited as one of “ten artists of brightening magnitude” among the 145 artists shown in the Whitney’s Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art by Time magazine, which reproduces Phenomena Dory’s Locker, 1962 (January 3rd, 1964). Albert E. Elsen’s text “The Marvels of Occurrence” describing Jenkins in his studio is published in Art International in March. Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery reviewed in The New York Times (John Canaday), The New York Post (Irving Sandler), Art News, and Arts Magazine. Solo exhibition at Galerie Karl Flinker in Paris reviewed in The New York Herald Tribune (Paris).
The Detroit Institute of Arts acquires Phenomena Yield Blue Milk, 1964 through its Founders Society. The Chase Art Collection purchases Phenomena Red Resonance, 1964 from the artist.
While not explicitly about art or nature, [Jenkins] wants his paintings to have beauty and the look of the natural: movements and processes with indivisible parts, the pulse of flux and reflux, the clean irregular edge that turns to vapor. In the manner of personal epiphanies, Jenkins' painting is about his temperamental interaction with fluid color, revelations of what occurs inside him only during the special circumstances of painting.
Albert E. Elsen, “The Marvels of Occurrence,” Art International, March 1964, p. 67
Jenkins travels to Madrid and visits El Escorial. Travels to Barritz to see the author James Jones. Completes a series of original color lithographs on stone printed by Fernand Mourlot in Paris for Seeing Voice Welsh Heart, a book of poetry by Cyril Hodges published by Parisian dealer Karl Flinker. The large-scale Phenomena Yonder Near, 1964 is purchased by David Kluger and loaned to the Tate Gallery in London, until it is donated in 1972. The Smithsonian Institution holds a screening of the film The Ivory Knife. Albert E. Elsen's study on Phenomena Danger – Pass Left, 1964 is published in the Bulletin of the Herron Museum of Art [now the Indianapolis Museum of Art]; the Contemporary Art Society of the museum purchases this work for the permanent collection. The Krannert Art Museum selects Phenomena Point Swing Flank, 1964 from the entries in its 1965 invitational exhibition as an award purchase.
Travels to the USSR, where he visits the cities and environs of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev. Jenkins travels to Zagorsk to see the icons of the great medieval Russian painter and saint, Andrei Rublev. Rublev’s icons leave a strong impression on Jenkins for their force, intensity and central emphasis.
The Ivory Knife receives the CINE Golden Eagle Award at the Venice International Film Festival and is shown at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. The artist’s play Strike the Puma, begun in 1958 and completed in 1965, is published by Éditions Gonthier in Paris. In New York, pursues the study of Jungian concepts with Dr. Erlo van Waveren. Harry Abrams proposes publishing a monograph on Jenkins’ work. At the end of July, Mark Rothko and Jenkins visit Monet’s Water Lilies at the Orangerie in Paris to explore potential solutions for a protective distance between the viewer and the paintings for the Rothko Chapel then in preparation. In “Jenkins Paints an Opinion” in Art News (November 1966), the artist says of the early influence of working in a ceramics factory:
I was able to watch a true artisan work with a difficult medium which requires just the right sense of timing. I witnessed tension. And I was also drawn to the organic quality of the glazes which melt under the fire of the kiln. I wanted to do that to color. This led me to want to pour paint. I found that with pouring and the ivory knife I could do what the kiln did. I wanted it to look as though the fire had painted it in the final stages.
Jenkins is named one of the 23 most prominent Americans in London in “Americans Among Us,” the cover article of London Life’s July 2, 1966 issue. Solo exhibition at Arthur Tooth & Sons in London reviewed in London Life article, as well as in The Times (London) and Arts Review. Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery reviewed in The New York Times, The New York Post, Art News,and Arts Magazine. Included in A Dictionary of Contemporary American Artists by Paul Cummings, published by St. Martin’s Press.
Joseph Hirshhorn donates Phenomena Cloven Image, 1961 and the large-scale canvas Phenomena Reverse Spell, 1963 to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden then in development in Washington, DC. Peggy Guggenheim donates Phenomena Yellow Eye, 1962 to the San Diego Museum of Art.
Over the next several years, the artist paints a series of large canvases in which grays and granular whites predominate. What Albert E. Elsen describes as “the coming of the grays,” came about through the artist's search “to find another temperature” and become in touch with a new sense of “structure, or substantial substance.” [the artist quoted in Elsen, Paul Jenkins, p. 78, p. 79]
The artist's play Strike the Puma is produced off-Broadway, directed by Vasek Simek. Creates mural-size paintings for the production. Moderates a panel on Jackson Pollock at “The Club” on 8th Street, or as he wrote to James Jones, “I should say refereed it” (April 5, 1967 §). Cited in Harold Rosenberg’s article “The Art World, The Nineteen Sixties: Time in the Museum,” for The New Yorker (July 29, 1967). Featured in an article “Artists as Collectors” in Art in America (November-December 1967).
Awarded the silver medal in painting at the 30th Biennial of the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. The Corcoran acquires the large-scale painting Phenomena Day of Zagorsk, 1966 and Phenomena Chosen Cycle, 1965 for its collection. The Philadelphia Museum of Art acquires Phenomena Break Rope, 1961, Phenomena Shadow Fall, 1964, and Phenomena West Spectre, 1964. The Smithsonian American Art Museum acquires the large canvas Phenomena Sun over the Hour Glass, 1966. The Whitney Museum of American Art acquires Phenomena Blue Succession, 1965. The Chase Art Collection purchases two 1967 paintings: Phenomena NW Prevailing and Phenomena Westerly Prevailing.
What comes through with Day of Zagorsk or Sun over the Hourglass is particular sensation. ... by creating interior echoes of color, sometimes by sprinkling within crepuscular clouds of white, his light expands from flattish transparency into atmospheric color, and instead of moving laterally along the plane it can turn into itself. Jenkins captures light in radiant volumes of mood.
Natalie Edgar, Art News, December 1966, review of Martha Jackson Gallery exhibition
Introduced by Mark Tobey to Egidio Costantini, master glassmaker and founder of the Fucina degli Angeli, who has worked with Tobey, as well as Alexander Calder, Pablo Picasso, Jean Arp, Max Ernst, and Lucio Fontana. Jenkins begins a series of unique glass sculptures with Costantini in Murano.
My forms are built up from solid color combined with crystal volumes which surround the color and also veil the color which create extraordinary interpenetrating, refracting lights when a single source of light is allowed to enter the translucent form.
Letter from the artist to Rabbi Arthur Schneier concerning his glass sculptures, April 20, 1971
Harry Abrams decides against integrating what the artist terms his “black-and-white autobiographical photomontages” into his forthcoming Abrams' monograph published in 1973. These elements later evolve into Anatomy of a Cloud, published by Harry N. Abrams in 1983.
Phenomena in Heaven's Way, 1967 is illustrated in the first edition of H. H. Arnason’s History of Modern Art. The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art acquires Phenomena with Inviolate Cadmium Red, 1965. The Museum of Modern Art, New York acquires 2 paintings from 1963: Phenomena Yellow Strike and Phenomena Junction Red. The collector David Kluger donates Phenomena Blue Samothrace, 1968 to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
Phenomena Astral Signal, 1964 is reproduced in color in the revised and enlarged History of Art, A Survey of the Major Visual Arts from the Dawn of History to the Present Day by H.W. Janson. Albert E. Elsen agrees to write text for the Abrams monograph and tapes lengthy interviews with the artist.
Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery reviewed in The New York Times, The New Yorker (Irving Sandler), Art News, Arts Magazine, and Art International. The artist describes the exhibition in a letter to James and Gloria Jones [April 19, 1969 §] as having a “solid wall of 18 x 20 inch paintings lined up together (Clare Booth Luce bought two), the upstairs floor had medium-large paintings, and the studio at 831 Broadway was filled with really large-scale paintings, which I have never been able to show before.” Martha Jackson dies in California in July.
The Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown acquires Phenomena Side of St. George, 1968. S. C. Johnson & Son, Inc. donates Phenomena Ring Rang Rung, 1961 to the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The Whitney Museum acquires the large-scale canvas, Phenomena Kwan Yin, 1969 and the grisaille canvas, Phenomena Near Nepenthe, 1969.
Continues to work with Egidio Costantini in Murano on glass sculptures. An article on the artist's graphic work is published in Art in America (January-February 1970) and includes an original offset lithograph printed by Triton Press. Creates a series of black-and-white lithographs on stone with Chiron Press. Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery receives reviews in The New York Times, Art News, and Art International. The William S. Rubin Foundation donates the large-scale canvas Phenomena Seen from a Glass, 1966 to the Mount Holyoke College Museum of Art.
The Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University [then the Stanford University Museum of Art] acquires Phenomena Near Euphrates, 1961, as well as the large-scale white on white diptych, Phenomena Two by Sea, 1968.
First major American retrospective opens at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts, organized with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art by Philippe de Montebello and Gerald Nordland. Sculpts two-ton piece of French limestone at the Sculptors’ Symposium at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York [now in the Sculpture Garden of the Hofstra Museum]. Attends the inauguration of the Rothko Chapel in Houston and donates to the chapel’s archives a letter written to Jenkins by Rothko concerning his 1966 trip to Paris and preparation for his chapel. Correspondence and other writings sent to Butler Coleman at the Archives of American Art. [This is followed by more than 5,000 items in 2007 and another 1,000 items in 2008.] Begins studying techniques and media used in medieval painting. The actor and director Jean-Louis Barrault, an inspiration to the artist since his Art Students League years, visits the artist’s studio in New York City.
Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery reviewed in The New York Times and Art News. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art acquires Phenomena Big Sur Lode, 1971 with matching funds from the National Endowment of the Arts.
Jenkins has extended the medium for those who follow. His forthright acceptance of flux and the painting-in-the-instant ethic is as contemporary as improvised music or theater. He brings together chance, control, feeling and calculation to produce a rich new imagery, and, metaphysically, a whole new nature.
Gerald Nordland, Paul Jenkins Retrospective, 1971-1972, p. 26
The artist’s retrospective travels to its second venue, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, where it is extensively reviewed by Alfred Frankenstein titled “A Unity of Man and Materials” published in The San Francisco Chronicle (January 16, 1972). Paul Jenkins: Works on Paper, an exhibition of watercolors organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, opens at the museum then travels for two years across the United States. Vincent Melzac, a Washington, DC collector of post-war American abstraction donates the large-scale canvas Phenomena Divining Rod, 1971 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the large-scale canvas Phenomena Sound of Sundials, 1971 to the National Gallery of Art.
Completes a series of original lithographs on stone, The Four Seasons, for Abrams Original Editions. At Triton Press, Jenkins creates "Sanctuary," described by the artist and printer Harry Lerner as a “light graphic” to differentiate it from traditional collotype.
Solo exhibition titled Ore Lode Vein at Martha Jackson Gallery. The review in Art Forum notes a concern for natural processes and the feeling of sedimentation in the paintings. Solo exhibition at Gimpel Fils reviewed in Arts Review, The Times (London), and The Observer (London). After solo exhibition in London, travels to Cornwall with Peter Gimpel to see the dolmens.
Paul Jenkins with text by Albert E. Elsen is published by Harry N. Abrams in New York. Makes first drawings for Meditation Mandala Sundial, a sculpture meditation park. [In 1981, the artist begins to build elements of this sculpture in steel at the Shidoni Foundry in Tesuque, New Mexico; these elements are now in the Sculpture Garden of the Hofstra Museum.] Visits the prehistoric stones at Carnac in France. Solo exhibition at Martha Jackson Gallery receives reviews in Art News and The New York Times. First solo exhibition with Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer in New York opens in November and is reviewed in Arts Magazine.
Joseph Hirshhorn purchases seven paintings, the largest of which Phenomena Field of Color, 1973 is included in the 1974 inaugural exhibition of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
Jenkins’ images are impressive and compelling because of their source in modern awareness of motion, pluralistic perspectives, and luminosities. He shares with Tobey, Rothko and Newman the conviction that modern painting can fulfill the individual’s spiritual needs, which has previously been served by artists working for the Church.
Elsen, Paul Jenkins, p. 82
On canvas and paper, continues to explore through veils of color the Newtonian prism and to investigate translucent and opaque light, revealed and hidden forms. Exhibits shaped canvases in “Paintings and Watercolors” at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York. Solo exhibition at Gimpel Fils in London is reviewed in Arts Review and Burlington Magazine. After showing Phenomena Hoisting the Colors, 1973 in the exhibition Environment for Living the preceding year, the Columbus Museum of Art [then the Columbus Gallery of Fine Art] purchases the canvas and mounts an exhibition titled Paul Jenkins: Recent Work.
Retrospective at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Charleroi. The Baukunst Gallery in Cologne mounts a retrospective exhibition of paintings and works on paper.
Attends a series of lectures by the art historian Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University in New York, continuing into 1975.
Paul Jenkins has always been fascinated by Turner's glistening reflections of colour in nature and Georges de la Tour's glow of light from figures and objects set in dark interiors. He has attempted to bring both together as if the outside and the inside vibrations of visual experience were woven in the same veiled fabric of pigment.
Denis Bowen, Arts Review, London, May 3, 1974, review of Gimpel Fils exhibition, London.
Jenkins writes “The Gift of the Master” for the catalogue of Yasuo Kuniyoshi’s traveling retrospective in Japan. Sam Francis donates Phenomena Over Albi, 1960, which he acquired in 1961, to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Solo exhibition at Comsky Gallery, Los Angeles reviewed in Art News and solo exhibition at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York in Arts Magazine.
At Imprimerie Mourlot, creates a poster-collage as an original lithograph on stone for Silvia Monfort's portrayal of Ibsen's La Dame de la Mer at her theater in Paris, Le Nouveau Carré. Solo exhibition at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer reviewed by The New York Times and Gordon Brown in Arts Magazine.
The Woodward Foundation donates Phenomena Sea Born, ca. 1965 to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC.
Rents Mill Pointin St. Croix where he begins a series of watercolors and paintings. He is strongly influenced by the physicality of working outside, reminiscent of his stay in Taormina (1953) where he was confronted by color in a direct and decisive way. Describes the Caribbean as “a very alien and beautiful territory.” [letter from the artist, September 19, 1977 §] In St. Croix, works with architect Frank Prince on the design of a structure that would extend the forms of the artist's sculpture, Meditation Mandala Sundial. Participates with Paul Mazursky in filming An Unmarried Woman in Jenkins’ Broadway studio. Requests the return of his trunk of photographs, correspondence, and writings on deposit with the Beinecke Library at Yale University since 1967; elements of which become integrated into the artist's evolving autobiographical collages published in Anatomy of a Cloud [Harry N. Abrams, 1983].
Has exhibition titled Anatomy of a Cloud — steles, collages, sculpture, and painting — at Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer in New York. The exhibition is reviewed in The New York Times and Art News. The artist continues to explore sculptural elements in relation to his painting.
Images of Paul Jenkins' paintings are projected in “The Shining House,” held at Jean Erdman and Joseph Campbell’s experimental Theater of the Open Eye in New York. Conceived, choreographed, and directed by Jean Erdman, “The Shining House” brings together dance, theater, and music and continues to be performed at the theater until 1984. The photographer Barbara Morgan attends a performance and writes her positive response to the artist. [letter from Barbara Morgan to the artist, March 2, 1978]
During a long stay in the Caribbean at Mill Point, evidence of impasto begins to appear in the paintings. Completes Phenomena Forcing a Passage at the Mark, 1979, a key painting in discovering the scraped veils with prism concentrates. Uses paint thickly to reveal and break down the persistent features of the Newtonian prism. Much of his painting for his next New York exhibition is completed in St. Croix. An article on Jenkins appears in Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine with text by Mario Amaya. Focuses on the autobiographical collages and text for Anatomy of a Cloud and its collages which he describes as "not unlike psychic maps for the optic nerve to take a voyage. They show indication of weather, the time of day, the very character and mood of the terrain." [Anatomy of a Cloud, p. 166]
Through the years this Maverick of expressionism has strengthened and matured, firmly imposing his own self-determined lexicon of color and shapes that permits a certain dynamism to be suffused in an aura of sensitivity.... These recent pictures show strength through an instantaneous visibility; they give us private insights into a universe that we otherwise might be denied. And, they do what all fine pictures should do: they open our eyes to things we had not seen before, or indeed even considered. They leave us and our view of the world permanently changed for the better.
Mario Amaya, catalogue text, Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer, New York 1979
A complete chronology for Paul Jenkins can be found on the artist’s website.
Many of the letters quoted in the chronology are now held in the artist’s papers at the Archives of American Art.