Brice Marden (born October 15, 1938), is an American artist, generally described as Minimalist, although his work may be hard to categorize. He lives and works in New York City; Tivoli, New York; Hydra, Greece; and Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania.
In 1960, Brice Marden married Pauline Baez (sister of Joan) and together they had a son, Nicholas. The marriage to Pauline ended a few years later and by 1968 he was remarried to artist Helen Marden. Together with Helen Marden, they have two daughters, Mirabelle and Melia. Brice Marden’s son, Nick Marden, is a punk musician who participated in the New York punk scene of the 1970s and ’80s. The Mardens’ daughter, Mirabelle Marden, was a proprietor of Rivington Arms, an art gallery in New York. She is also a photographer. Melia Marden is the chef of the New York restaurant group The Smile.
From 1987 to 2000 Marden’s studio was located on the Bowery. Today, the artist keeps a Manhattan studio in a 10th-floor penthouse duplex on West Street with around 5,000 square feet of space and one two-story window looking onto the Hudson River. The Mardens bought an estate in Tivoli, New York, called Rose Hill, in 2002. At its center is a stately 1843 main house on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River. The studio was carved out of an old carriage house and has been converted into a large, light-filled space with western and northern exposures. At Rainbow Farms, the family’s 400-acre summer residence in Eagles Mere, Pennsylvania since 1991, an old barn was converted to a third workspace with almost no natural light. On Hydra, Marden and his wife traded up houses (as they did elsewhere), moving into the current one in 1989. In 2006, the couple bought a fifth property, Golden Rock Inn, on the Caribbean island of Nevis, with plans to build yet another studio there.
In the late 1960s and early ’70s, a moment when painting was widely considered moribund, Marden gained international fame as the master of the monochrome panel. In 1971, Brice and his wife, Helen Harrington, visited the Greek island of Hydra, to which they have returned every year since. The couple bought their first home there in 1973. The light and landscape have greatly influenced Marden’s work (see, for instance, the five Grove Group paintings, 1972–1980; Souvenir de Grèce works on paper, 1974–1996). Executed in oil on marble fragments, he made a total of 31 paintings on marble on Hydra.
Marden’s early monochromatic paintings exist as single panels, diptychs and triptychs. In each of the four Red Yellow Blue paintings (1974), the artist painted slabs of dense yet nuanced color on three adjoined canvas panels, using oil paint mixed on the spot with melted beeswax and turpentine and applied with a knife and spatula. He gradually increased the number of panels, arranging them into post-and-lintel configurations. After preparing designs for stained-glass windows for Basle Cathedral in 1977, he became interested in expressing in his paintings the conditions of colour and light in architecture. Between 1981-87, Marden made a total of 31 paintings on marble, all of them produced in Hydra.
In 1977, Marden traveled to Rome and Pompeii, where he strengthened his interest in Roman and Greek art and architecture, which would influence his work of the late 1970s and early 1980s. In 1983, Marden and family traveled to Thailand, Sri Lanka, and India; the artist became fascinated by the art, landscape, and culture of parts of Asia. Marden has subsequently incorporated numerous elements of certain Asian traditions into his work, making them one key to his process (the Shell Drawings, 1985–87). A visit in 1984 to the exhibition Masters of Japanese Calligraphy, 8th-19th Century, encouraged Marden to use form, a predominant influence in his recent work—which can be seen in his acclaimed Cold Mountain series, both paintings and works on paper, 1989-1991. Combining airy, calligraphic scaffoldings of line with whitish or palely tinted backgrounds, these 9-by-12-foot paintings were the biggest Marden had made to that point.
In 2000, Marden embarked on The Propitious Garden of Plane Image, the longest two of which measure 24 feet. Writing in The New Yorker in 2006, the critic Peter Schjeldahl described Marden as “the most profound abstract painter of the past four decades”.