A brief biography of the artist

Born in California, John Button (1929 - 1982) was educated at U of C Berkeley. After moving to New York City in the early 1950s he became friends with Fairfield Porter and Frank O'Hara and assumed his part in the New York School of Painters and Poets.

Photograph of the artist and friends circa 1950

South Hampton circa 1955
Frank O'Hara in the rumbleseat, John Ashbery, John Button, Larry Rivers at the wheel, Joe Rivers

Amidst the frenzy of Abstract Expressionism, Button remained true to his interest in realism, and is now most commonly associated with such New York School artists as Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, and Alex Katz. Concerning Button, Bill Berkson has written: "The scaled-up perceptual intimacy his best paintings assert is part of what the realist wing of the New York School developed, beginning in the ‘50s, as a counterthrust to – as well as an absorption of – abstraction’s headlong specifyings of applied paint.”

John Button was a fine draftsman and drew from life models throughout his career. However, little known are his sketches of male nudes – studio models from the School of Visual Arts, where Button taught, as well as personal acquaintances. Tim Dlugos writes: “The setting and the artist’s tools are as stripped down as the models: a naked man, a pencil, and a sheet of paper. Button creates erotic tension in these drawings not by addition…but by a remarkable effective process of subtraction.”

After John Button's death John Russel wrote the following for Art in Review:

Article in the New York Times writen about the artist John Button after his death