About the Artist
WATCH A FILM OF THE 50 Years In Art Show at Ocean County College
The Artist at age 14 in his Studio 1961
Schiff was born in Jersey City in 1947 to Louise Mary Reier and Leonard Schiff. He grew up in North Bergen, just across the Hudson River from Manhattan. Schiff entered the Art Students League of New York in 1962 and was admitted into the Ernest Fiene's Class on Saturdays even though he was a child.
His family had made their livings in the Arts. Cousin Jerome Robbins, was a World Renown Choreographer and Ballet Dancer. Uncle, Herman Don Yero had studios in New York, Paris and London, and his father Len was a famous miniaturist. His work is in many public and private collections. Leonard Schiff created many miniature rooms for the Helena Rubinstein Collection. He also did set models for Jo Meltziner, legendary Broadway Set Designer. Uncle Herman made the arrangements for Mr. Fiene to view Schiff's student work and that lead to his acceptance as a student.
Stewart Klonis, then League Director and Mr. Fiene, famous for hand picking his students, felt that Schiff was ready for adult drawing and painting. He studied with Ernest Fiene for three years. After Mr. Fiene died on a trip to Paris in 1965 Schiff continued a year with Andrew Lukasch. After graduating High School, Schiff registered for Full Time classes with Will Barnet for drawing and painting, drawing with Earl Mayan and Robert Beverley Hale for Anatomy, Jose De Creeft for sculpture.
In September 1967 Schiff had a One Man Show at Upsala University
In late march of 1968 Schiff opened a one man show at Gallery 55 in Brooklyn, and photos of his paintings appeared in the New York Times.
Later that same year Schiff married Denise Steinberg (left) and traveled to London where he began a series of experiments in minimization to study the interactions of color in two dimensional space, based entirely on a system of forms derived from his figurative works.
In December he and his wife moved to Amsterdam, where Schiff shared a theory of Color at the Rijksakademie Van Beelbende Kunsten through a friendship with Professor N.R.A. Vroom, Director of the Royal Academy, who was to become his mentor while in the Nederland and they corresponded for years. Those years in Europe were very productive. Schiff saw the fulfillment of his color studies and developed a clear use of color as it related to his use of form. Below is an ad from New York Magazine that shows a two man show at Avanti Galleries in 1971.
Retuning to America Schiff and his wife rented a different apartment on Morton Street, and Schiff shared a separate studio on West 4th Street in the West Village with painter Michael C. Pavao who he exhibited with for a number of years afterward. In the Spring of 1970 Schiff had a One Man Show at the Avanti Galleries on 72nd Street and Park Avenue in New York. On exhibit were all his Mono-climates produced in Holland the year before.
The Gallery was owned by Frances Wynshaw and Roma Gerard. Ms. Gerard was related to the Whitneys and she bought many of Schiff's works. Schiff had another show a Avanti, sharing the walls with Michael Pavao in Spring 1971.
Early Fall saw Schiff and Pavao opening their Greenwich Village studio for a two man show that was extraordinarily well attended and very successful.
Schiff and his wife divorced in 1972. That year saw Schiff exhibiting at Albin Zeglen Gallery on Broome Street in SoHo.
Schiff organized a critically acclaimed exhibit that season at Albin Zeglen Gallery , "Interpretations of Sexuality". Women artists were having trouble getting shows in galleries, so Schiff went to the Women's Inter-arts Center on west 55th street and addressed a welcome to women artists especially. The show was a critical success and propelled the careers of Audrey Flack, Louise Bourgeois and others.
Schiff attended New York University School of the Arts Institute of Film and Television 1972-74 and while there had a film he made, Dance Dancer shown on Public Broadcasting New York 13 University Television Workshop. It featured a solitary member of the Alvin Ailey Dancers, practicing.
In 1974 Schiff relocated to Southern New Jersey and worked founding Gilford Graphics Advertising with his older brother Walter who passed away in 1995 at the age of 57.
Schiff had a large one man show at the Toms River Township Municipal Art Gallery in Toms River NJ inaugurating the all new gallery in the new administration building in 1980. For a year he operated a school The Art School, training talented area children and adults in drawing and painting.
Schiff was hired to inaugurate the program in Art at Ocean County Vocational Technical Schools in 1981, wrote the two year curriculum and taught for two years to see it worked. In 1982 he had a one man show at Ocean County Artists Foundation Gallery in Point Pleasant.
Schiff did not exhibit again until 1991 when Schiff mounted a show titled "11 Diverse Artists" around works by 11 former students of Will Barnet, one of whom was Richard Barnet, Will's son. Schiff then held a one man show at the Jewish Community Center in Deal New Jersey. Another show that Spring at Kevin Cooper Galleries in Jersey City saw the 11 Artists back together again. He followed in 1992 with a show at the Robert Baum Gallery in Sea Girt New Jersey.
In 1994 Schiff suffered a studio fire that claimed many of the images on this page, but many were saved from the flames being in storage and in other people's protection. Fortunately many of Schiff's works on paper resisted ruin and are available today as are many of his paintings that survived plus all those he has created since.
In 2001 Richard Schiff married Mary Elizabeth Barnet (left) eldest daughter of Schiff's teacher, Will Barnet. Mary is an internationally renown poet, founder and editor of PoetryMagazine.com on the web. In 2006 she published her 7th volume of poetry The New American, illustrated with many of Schiff's works. It has received tremendous critical acclaim.
His studio was rebuilt in 1995 and he and Mary still reside there. It is a barn originally built in 1834 completely renovated and restored after the fire. It is a one of a kind in this day and age.
Schiff is part of an international tradition of painting. Much of his influence is natural coming through his Germanic ancestry producing the strong sense of expressionism inherent though more disciplined with plastic ideals of the early 20th century abstractionists. His place in the New York School of Painting is established by his training and expression. In September of 2011 he had a "50 years in Art" Retrospective at the Ocean County College Galleries of Fine Art in his home town of Toms River Township.
He has rarely strayed from the figure and claims that "portraits show the person God created, beyond their ability to alter that." He believes that portraits relate something "enriching and ephemeral, a sense of personal that no photograph can produce."