Purple Sunset, 1968
Raimonds Staprans, (1926-present)
Oil on Canvas
22″ x 25″
Signed, dated lower right
From Maxwell Galleries, S.F., with exhibit label on verso, titled, numbered.

 Raimonds Staprans (b. 1926 –) 

He is a painter whose still life and landscape compositions explore color and form by examining the geometry or ‘architecture’ of everyday objects—chairs, tables, fruit, anonymous buildings—and subverting their inherent naturalism via color and flattened compositions.  Rigorous geometry and a strong line are hallmarks of Staprans’s painting.  Though superficially associated with the paintings of Wayne Thiebaud, due to similar subject matter and a high-keyed “California” palette, Staprans’ work is more akin to the formal abstractions of painters Josef Albers and Piet Mondrian.(1)  Staprans himself has stated that he is “an abstract painter whose objects are recognizable and sometimes quite realistic, but [in reality] they are all … constructed from the ground up in absolutely abstract terms.“(2)  

An accomplished playwright, Staprans’ writing explores the tension between fact and fiction, totalitarian ‘reality’ and human truth, set against his Latvian homeland’s 20th-century history.  His play Cetras dienas junija (Four Days in June), about the last days in office of pre-Soviet occupation President Karlis Ulmanis was a cultural and political watershed in Latvia in the late 1980s and played an important role in the country’s democratic revolution in the early 1990s.  In 2003, Staprans was awarded Latvia’s highest civilian honor, the Three Star Medal, the equivalent of the United States’s Presidential Medal of Freedom.  

Raimonds Staprans immigrated with his family to America in 1947 after fleeing the Soviet invasion of Latvia.  He studied art at the University of Washington under Alexander Archipenko and Mark Tobey, he obtained his master’s degree at UC Berkeley where he studied with Hans Hofmann.  His work is held in the permanent collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the San Jose Museum of Art, among others.  The University of Washington Press published a full-color monograph on Staprans’ career in 2005, which was followed by a retrospective exhibition at the Pasadena Museum of California Art in early 2006. 

1. Michael Duncan, “Raimonds Staprans: The Philosophy of On, Under, Nearby, and Through” in Raimonds Staprans (San Francisco: Hackett-Freedman Gallery, 2003) 2. Interview with art historian Paul J. Karlstrom for the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.