About the Artist
Pat Steir is an American painter and printmaker, whose fifty year career has led to her being one of the few female artists whose work has sold for seven figures at auction.
Early Life and Education
Pat Steir was born Iris Patricia Sukoneck in 1940 in Newark, New Jersey. Her father was an aspiring artist who had to drop out of art school to support his wife and four children. Steir said that her father discouraged her from being an artist and encouraged her to be a poet, thinking that she might be able to earn a living as a writer.
Despite her father’s advice, Steir gave up a scholarship to study English as Smith College and, instead, attended Pratt Institute in New York from 1956 to 1958, transferred to Boston University College of Fine Arts from 1958 to 1960 then returned to Pratt to earn her BFA in 1962. Steir married her high school sweetheart, Merle Steir in 1958.
After graduation, she worked as an illustrator and book designer for a few years and then became art director at Harper & Row publishing in New York from 1966 to 1969. Steir had her first group show at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia in 1962.
During the early 1970s, Pat Steir’s career began to take off. She had a solo exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. in 1973. She did a series of Rose paintings and works where the main subjects were x’d out.
Steir traveled to California, where she was invited to teach at the California Institute of the Arts, which she did until 1975. While in California, she met artist Sol Lewitt, who became a major influence in her life. It was Lewitt who accompanied her to Crown Point Press in 1975, which led her to publish and promote artists’ books, including a book with composer John Cage.
John Cage introduced Steir to yipin, the Chinese art of ink splashing, which led Stier to experiment with dripping, splashing, and pouring paint onto canvas, leaving the final results to the whims of gravity, which led to her Waterfall paintings.
Her waterfall paintings brought Steir’s work into the forefront of the art world. Last year, Elective Affinity Waterfall was sold at auction for $2,295,000, well above the $600,000 – 800,000 pre-auction estimate.
This year Steir has been commissioned to create a series of site-specific paintings for the Barnes Foundation’s Annenberg Court and a series of works for the Hirshhorn in Washington, D.C.
Steir said, in a New York Times interview, that she’s been “forgotten and rediscovered many times” during her fifty-year career.
The works of Pat Steir can be found in the permanent collection of the Louvre, Paris, the Tate Gallery, London, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, the Denver Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC.
Hilarie M. Sheets. Pat Steir Gets Discovered, Again. The New York Times. January 18, 2019.
Apollo International Art Magazine. ‘The paint makes its own image’ – an interview with Pat Steir. January 22, 2019.