Just In: Raimonds Staprans

March 12, 2020

Though California has birthed an incalculable list of monumental artists, some might argue that it has been the Golden State “transplants” who, in choosing to place their fingers on the pulse of the region’s s character, have most keenly materialized its identity. The Latvian-born painter and playwright Raimonds Staprans (b. 1926) is a sterling example of this phenomenon, and we are pleased to offer two of his works, A Study of the Shiny Paint Can (1994) and Clearwater #2 (1994), in our upcoming Modern Art & Design Auction. 

Top: Raimonds Staprans, Clearwater #2
Bottom: Raimonds Staprans, A Study of the Shiny Paint Can

Despite growing up against the tumultuous backdrop of Soviet occupation, Staprans received a fairly consistent arts education by grace of his mother’s background as a poet and literary critic. Upon resettling in the U.S. with his family in 1947, Staprans first chose to follow his father’s footsteps and enter the medical profession. Influenced by his father’s declaration, however, that “everyone can become a doctor, but only a few people can become artists,” Staprans turned to formally pursuing his art practice.

As a graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, Staprans was jolted from his “traditional” training and into abstraction, thanks to Hans Hofmann’s authority in the school’s art department. Despite initial resistance, Staprans found that abstract expressionism forced him “to get the feel of the basic architecture of painting and how a painting is…constructed” — lessons critical to the formulation of his own style.

Staprans showed consistently throughout the West Coast after graduating, though he didn’t really consider his work creatively successful for another twenty years. He became loosely associated with the Bay Area Figurative painters, and today is often compared to both Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn. Staprans rarely painted the human form — instead, he supercharged abstract still-lifes and landscapes with hyper-saturation. He blended traditional subject matter with contemporary notions of composition, evoking uncanny sensations of his adopted California home through his treatment of light.

At the core of his practice, Staprans believes that “it is the job of the artist to bring order to chaos.” It is perhaps this mission that has driven Staprans to so acutely transcribe the often unspoken psychology of the California experience. Curator John Yau has noted that Staprans’ compositions “are like tectonic plates. One senses that their alignment is precarious, and that everything could shift suddenly and violently in the blink of an eye.” Yau’s observation parallels Joan Didion’s articulation of a local “apprehension of the potential for disaster in the everyday.” Even in his series on artist materials — of which both Study of the Shiny Paint Can and Clearwater #2 are a part — Staprans laces his radiant textures and tones with a structural uneasiness. This synthesis produces a sense of “impending trouble” that renders his work, as Staprans himself put it, “purely Californian.”

Karlstrom, Paul. “Oral History Interview with Raimonds Staprans, 1997 August 14-September 15.” Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, 2010,
Paintings By Raimonds Staprans.” San José Museum of Art, 10 Oct. 2018,
Yau, John. “Harsh and Forgiving Light.” Raimonds Staprans. Peter Mendenhall Gallery, 2008.


Raimond Staprans
Clearwater #2
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower left; titled canvas verso
22″ x 25″

Estimate: $8,000 – $12,000
July 30 – August 9 Modern Art & Design Timed Online Only Auction

Raimond Staprans
A Study of the Shiny Paint Can
Oil on canvas
Signed and dated lower right; titled canvas verso
28″ x 34″

Estimate: $15,000 – $20,000
July 30 – August 9 Modern Art & Design Timed Online Only Auction

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