Thomas Monahan

Fine Art

Paul Jenkins

Paul Jenkins (1923 – 2012)

Born in Kansas City, Missourri, Paul Jenkins was an American abstract expressionist painter, most known for his large canvases on which he pooled paint into streaks and blobs of color. His very physical painting process, which involved brusquely handling the canvas – “as if it were a sail,” he noted – helped establish his reputation for Pollock-like male bravado attributed to the New York School. He called himself "an abstract phenomenist," often beginning his titles with the term.
After his youth spent in Kansas City, he moved to Struthers, Ohio, in his teenage years to live with his mother, Nadyne Herrick, and stepfather, who both ran the local newspaper.The Hometown JournalAfter graduating from Struthers High School, he served in the U.S. Maritime Service and entered the U.S. Naval Air Corps during World War II. In 1948, he moved to New York City where, on the G.I. Bill, he studied at the Art Students League of New York for four years. During that time, he met Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Barnett Newman. 
By the 1970s and ’80s, his art career had provided him with a glamorous life, divided between France, where his work graced a Pierre Cardin boutique, and New York, where he kept an airy loft near Union Square that had previously belonged to Willem de Kooning. The first lady of France, Danielle Mitterrand, once visited the studio, and the party he gave for her was attended by guests like Paloma Picasso, Robert Motherwell and Berenice Abbott.
Influenced by Jung’s theories, he began to preface the titles of his works with the word "Phenomena" starting in the 1960s, followed by a key word or phrase. Gradually moving away from working in oil, he also adopted acrylic paint at this time, and a distinctive ivory knife used to guide the paint, noting that “I do not stain and I do not work on unprimed canvas. This is more significant than it may appear. Staining or working on un-primed canvas results in an inkblot-like effect where the paint penetrates the canvas and spreads out on its own. When I work on primed canvas, I can control the flow of paint and guide it to discover forms. The ivory knife is an essential tool in this because it does not gouge the canvas.” Jenkins’ ivory knife was so characteristic, in fact, that a film on Jenkins was titled after it. It received the Golden Eagle Award at the 1966 Venice Film Festival, and was later screened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
After his schooling, Jenkins traveled to Italy and Spain before settling in Paris In 1953, where his first solo exhibition in Europe took place in 1954 at Studio Paul Facchetti on the Rue de Lille. His first American solo exhibition was held in New York at the Martha Jackson Gallery in 1956, after which The Whitney Museum of American Art purchased a painting from the show, Divining Rod (1956). Peggy Guggenheim also took interest in Jenkin’s work, purchasing Osage (1956), among other paintings of his. 

A selection of works