Joop Sanders

(c) Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, 1980

Joop Sanders (born October 6, 1921) is a Dutch-American painter, educator, and founding member of the American Abstract Expressionist group. He is the youngest member of the first generation of the New York School. Sanders’ work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art,  Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Milwaukee Museum of Art, among others.

Born in Amsterdam, the Netherlands he emigrated to the United States in 1939. Sanders studied in 1940 at the Art Students League of New York, in New York City, for six months with artist George Grosz. In 1940 Sanders met Elaine de Kooning and Willem de Kooning at a concert featuring the music of Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland and William Schuman. By the mid-1940s, Elaine de Kooning had painted approximately a dozen portraits of Sanders, which seem to express aloneness and androgyny. Sanders spoke at Elaine de Kooning’s memorial service.

Sanders was one of twenty original members and a charter member of The Club, which was located at 39 East 8th Street. Sanders married Isca Jörgensen at The Club on December 27, 1950. He is the only surviving artist to have exhibited at the historic 9th Street Show of 1951.

In the mid-1950’s Sanders left New York for Europe. This move—just at the time abstract expressionism was being accepted in America—resulted, however, in his being overlooked as one of the first younger artists to contribute to the style in New York. Sanders established a considerable European reputation and exhibited extensively in Europe. In addition, his inclusion in exhibitions with the Zero Group, curated by Enrico Castellani and Piero Manzoni connected his work with many of the leading Italian artists of the period, including Manzoni.

Sanders returned to New York in 1959, where his work became almost monochromatic and fieldlike. It never was impersonal; he always retained an emotional content.

In 1960 he was the first young American painter to be given a one-man show at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which played a crucial role in introducing advanced American art to Europe

During the late 1960s, Sanders created sectional paintings which would be arranged in a variety of configurations by the owner or even construed as three-dimensional sculpture.

Horizon Magazine’s art critic, Hiram Butler, described Sanders’ painting “Pantagruel, 1955” as roughly painted and reflects abstract-expressionist Angst at its fullest. Yet, like its namesake from Rabelais’ work, it is also good-humored. American commercial colors elevate the pitch and serve to delight. Along with the serious express there is a capricious and fanciful, almost mocking stroke. Sanders’ “Gong, 1979”, places the power of abstract-expressionist color and painterliness within a more formal and refined structure. Shapes are larger than in his earlier work. the dominant purples, deep greens, and pinks are rich and more closely hued. The combination results in a powerful, serene rhythm. When asked about reincorporating earlier tendencies in his art, Sanders responds, “the artist is like Sisyphus, punished by Zeus to try forever to roll a rock uphill which forever rolls back upon him.”

Art critic Lawrence Campbell in describing Sanders’ work for Art in America in 1987 at Alfred Kren Gallery in New York remarked, “These paintings are like spirit photographs in which the spirit reaches out and touches the viewer. Barnett Newman once said to Sanders on seeing paintings like these, “Of all the painters working in the context of color field, you seem to me to be the only one who, like, me, concerns himself with the humanist spirit in painting.”

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland, 1960

Alfred Kren Gallery, New York, NY, 1986
Biedermann Galerie, Munich, West Germany, 1986
Art Gallery, SUNY New Paltz, NY 1970
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, NY 1968
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, NY, 1965
Paul Schuster Gallery, Boston, MA, 1962
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, NY, 1962
Galerie Parnass, Wupertal, West Germany, 1960
Esther Stuttman Gallery, NY 1959
Galerie du Haute-Pavee, Paris, France, 1958
New Vision Gallery, London, England, 1957
Galerie Espace, Haarlem, Holland, 1957
Galerie CCC, Rotterdam, Holland, 1957

Snitzer Gallery, Miami, FL, 2003
Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1998
Mokotoff Gallery, New York, NY, 1986
Guild Hall, East Hampton, New York, NY, 1984
Schlesinger-Boisante Gallery, New York, NY 1983
Benson Gallery, Bridgehampton, NY, 1982
Landmark Gallery, New York, NY, 1970-1980
Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, NY, 1962-1973
Milwaukee Art Museum, “Directions 1: Options”, 1968
El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, Texas 1966
White House, Executive Offices, Washington, DC 1965-1966
Pennsylvania Academy Annual, 1966
University of Nebraska Annual, 1965
Flint Art Institute, Flint, Michigan 1964
New York University, Loeb Center, New York, NY 1964
Memphis Academy, Memphis, Tennessee 1963
Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1961
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland 1957-1959
Galerie Delta, Rotterdam, Holland, “Artist’s Group Zero”, 7.2-7.28-1959
Stable Gallery Annuals, New York, NY 1953-1955
Tanager Gallery, New York, NY 1952-1955
Ninth Street Show of 1951

Museum of Modern Art, New York
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Holland
Milwaukee Art Institute, Wisconsin
Municipal Museum of The Hague, Holland
Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Indiana University
Dillard University, Louisiana
International Ladies Garment Workers Union
Haystack School of Arts & Crafts, Maine

1961, 1962 Longview Foundation Purchase Grants