Larry Rivers was born as Yitzak Loiza Grossberg in New York City in 1923. He was an exceptional creative talent as a painter, sculptor, musician and poet. He changed his name to Larry Rivers after he was introduced under that name by a night club owner, where he was playing with his band. Art and painting began to attract him when he saw paintings by Georges Braque and Cubist artists.
Rivers’s began to study art in the 1940s, at New York University with Abstract Expressionist, Hans Hoffman and Surrealist, William Baziotes. Here he developed his own style of figurative drawing. He then toured Europe where he was no doubt exposed to even more culture and artistic expressions such as old masters, Courbet and Manet.
Rivers’s style is a mix of abstract expressionism and pop art. He used images from mass-produced designs on cigarette packs, and bank notes similar to what other Pop artists were doing, but also used free and spontaneous brushwork like the Expressionist. His artwork can not easily fit into a signal movement in art history. John Canaday, the chief art critic of The New York Times, called him ‘‘the cleverest, even the foxiest, painter at work in the country,’’ an artist who ‘‘can do anything he wants with a brush.’’ Rivers also created sculptures of life-size outdoor figures.
Larry Rivers was an important figure in postwar art, but he never gained a continuous popular following during his lifetime, despite creating a bridge between two very popular art movements: abstract expressionism and pop art. He focused on figurative works with a narrative or historical element, in a time when abstract art dominated the scene. He died in 2002 of liver cancer at his home in Southampton, New York.