Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967) described himself as being “born on Christmas Eve, on the eve of Europe’s entry into the First World War, the year of the climax of cubism and the birth of abstract art, the year of the first large exhibition of modern art in America, the Armory Show.” (Art News, March 1965)
After study at Columbia University under art historian Meyer Schapiro, Reinhardt began to train as a painter in the late 1930s. He became a member of the American Abstract Artists, a group of painters moving away from both the realism of the Ashcan School and the Regionalism of Thomas Hart Benton and John Steuart Curry.
During the Great Depression Reinhardt worked in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project (WPA/FAP), creating collage-based abstract paintings. Later, influenced by Josef Albers and Piet Mondrian, he began to work in grid structures using blocks of color variants. His first monochrome paintings were rectangles in shades of blue or red; after transitioning to black a few years later he painted only black squares in the last years of his life.