Robert Ryman (1930–2019) was born in Nashville, Tennessee. Between 1948 and 1950, he studied at the Tennessee Polytechnic Institute, Cookeville, and the George Peabody College for Teachers, Nashville. After two years in the Army Reserve Corps, Ryman moved to New York in 1952 to pursue a career as a professional jazz musician. The following year, he took a job as a security guard at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where he would work for seven years. His time working at the museum in part inspired Ryman to devote his life toward painting.
Ryman had his first solo exhibition at Paul Bianchini Gallery, New York, in 1967, followed by several solo shows at influential galleries in Europe and the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including Galerie Heiner Friedrich, Munich and Cologne (1968, 1969, 1971, 1972); Galerie Konrad Fischer, Düsseldorf (1968, 1969, 1973); Fischbach Gallery, New York (1969, 1970, 1971); Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris (1969); Dwan Gallery, New York (1971); and Lisson Gallery, London (1972-73).
The artist joined David Zwirner in 2021, and his first solo presentation at the gallery, The Last Paintings, was on view in New York in 2022.
His first institutional solo exhibition was at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, in 1972. Subsequent solo presentations at museums include those held at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1974); Kunsthalle Basel (1975); P.S. 1, Institute for Art and Urban Resources, Long Island City, New York (1977); Halle für Internationale neue Kunst, Zurich (1978, 1979, 1980); Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston (1986); Art Institute of Chicago (traveled to San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; 1987–1988); Tate Gallery, London (traveled to Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; 1993–1994); Haus der Kunst, Munich (traveled to Kunstmuseum Bonn; 2000–2001); Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan (2004); Dallas Museum of Art (2005–2006); The Menil Collection, Houston (2007–2008); and The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC (2010). In 2015 to 2016, Dia: Chelsea, New York, presented a retrospective of Ryman’s work that spanned several decades of the artist’s career. The exhibition traveled to Museo Jumex, Mexico City, in 2017.
Ryman’s work can be found in prominent institutional collections worldwide, including Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Massachusetts; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Art Institute of Chicago; Baltimore Museum of Art; Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, the Netherlands; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Dallas Museum of Art; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Dia Art Foundation, New York; Fundació “la Caixa,” Barcelona; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Ho-Am Art Museum, Seoul; Israel Museum, Jerusalem; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art, Sakura, Japan; Kunsthaus Zürich; Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark; Marieluise Hessel Collection, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; The Menil Collection, Houston; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Milwaukee Art Museum; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisbon; Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Seattle Art Museum; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Tate, London; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.