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Larry Rivers

Born 1923, New York City, USA.

Died 2002, Southampton, New York, USA

Rivers was born Yitzroch Grossberg; his parents were immigrants from Ukraine. He began his career as a professional musician working from 1940-1945 as a jazz saxophonist and changing his name to Larry Rivers. From 1945-46 he studied at the Juilliard School of Music alongside Miles Davis who became a lifelong friend. He started painting at this time and in 1947 enrolled at the Hans Hoffmann School of Art. He later took a B.A. degree in art education at New York University in 1951.

In the early years his work had explored aspects of American history such as the Civil War, rather as Sidney Nolan did in relation to Australian history; a notable example was the painting ‘Washington Crossing the Delaware’, acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. However, he soon became drawn to aspects of contemporary American popular culture and is now regarded by many as one of the key founding fathers of American Pop Art.

Rivers had other talents beyond music and art, he designed costumes and sets for a New York Philharmonic production of Stravinsky's opera ‘Oedipus Rex’, he appeared in the film ‘Pull My Daisy’ along with Jack Kerouac and other members of the Beat Generation writers and also directed documentary films.

From the early 1950s until his death in 2002 Rivers exhibited frequently in numerous group shows of Pop Art as well as solo exhibitions and retrospectives throughout America, Europe, South America and Australia. His work is represented many major collections around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum and MOMA in New York; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington; the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris and the Tate Gallery, London.