Paul Jenkins was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1923. Drawn to New York, he became a student of Yasuo Kuniyoshi at the Art Students League (1948-52) and ultimately became associated with the Abstract Expressionists, inspired in part by the “cataclysmic challenge of Pollock and the total metaphysical consumption of Mark Tobey.”
He settled in Paris in 1953 where he met Michel Tapié and various expatriate American artists such as Sam Francis and Norman Bluhm, and in 1954 he had his first one-man exhibition there at Studio Paul Facchetti. He was also co-editor of the Observations of Michel Tapié in 1956. His increasing interest in the use of fluid veils of colour to evoke flame-like shapes and mysterious, shifting spaces led him from 1959 to entitle his paintings ‘Phenomena’ accompanied by an identifying word or phrase. Since 1959 he has also made many watercolours.
The paintings of Paul Jenkins have come to represent the spirit, vitality, and invention of post World War II American abstraction. Employing an unorthodox approach to paint application, Jenkins’ fame is as much identified with the process of controlled paint-pouring and canvas manipulation as with the gem-like veils of transparent and translucent color which have characterized his work since the late 1950s.
An ongoing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, the study of the I Ching, along with the writings of Carl Jung prompted Jenkins’ turn toward inward reflection and mysticism which have dominated his aesthetic as well as his life.