Claes Oldenburg |  Save Up To 70% Off Retail Prices! | Free Artwork Giveaway | Best Offer | Weekly Deals |  Have Questions? Call 1-888-851-5650  
Find the Perfect Artwork!
New to or want to find the perfect artwork fast? Pick a starting point below!
New Arrivals
Artwork On Sale (Up to 70% off)
Weekly DealsHot!
Top Artists & Best SellersHot!
Browse Entire Collection
Featured CollectionsHot!
Browse by Artist Name
Artists In The Spotlight
Browse by Subjects of InterestHot!
Browse by Medium
Browse by Artwork Title
Browse by Dominant Color
Browse by Price Range
Browse by Artwork Dimensions Custom Framing & Online Frame ShopCustom Framing!
Save Time & Money! Fast Turnaround. Learn more...

Best Offer empowers you to negotiate a lower price for an item just like in real life!Like to Negotiate?
Submit an Offer and save a bunch of money! Learn more...

Get the art you want with the Layaway Program!Lay-It-Away!
Buy now and pay later. No Interest or Fees! Learn more...

Listen to eclectic music while you shop!I-Radio!
Shop & listen to eclectic sounds from around the globe! Launch I-Radio. Newsletter
Enjoy exclusive discounts and offers, new product information, decorating tips, educational content, and much more...
View Sample Opens In New Window. | Zero-Spam Policy
Featured Artists

Claes Oldenburg


Claes Thure Oldenburg was born January 28, 1929, in Stockholm, Sweden. Because his father was a member of the Swedish foreign service, Claes and his family moved often. From 1930 to 1933 the Oldenburgs resided in New York, and from 1933 to 1936 they lived in Oslo, Norway. In 1936 the family moved to Chicago, where Oldenburg's father served as consul general of Sweden.

Claes Oldenburg graduated from the Latin School in Chicago in 1946 and then enrolled at Yale University, receiving a B.A. degree in 1950. While at Yale, his studies focused on literature and art. In 1950 Oldenburg returned to Chicago, where he remained until 1956. He worked as an apprentice reporter at the City News Bureau and from 1952 to 1954 took classes in painting, figure drawing, and anatomy at the prestigious Art Institute of Chicago. He also attended the Oxbow Summer School of Painting in Saugatuck, Michigan, in 1953.

In 1956 Oldenburg moved to New York City and became an active member of that city's thriving young artistic community. For a time he worked as an assistant in the Cooper Union Museum's library, taking advantage of the opportunity to teach himself more about the history of art. His early years in New York were shaped by his contact with other artists struggling to move beyond the confines of Abstract Expressionism, including Red Grooms, Allan Kaprow, Robert Whitman, Lucas Samaras, George Segal, and Jim Dine. All were interested in art as experience and in pushing to the limit the question "What is art?" They began to stage "happenings" based in part on the European DADA ethos of the 1920s (and a forerunner to the 1980s performance artists). This was the beginning of the Pop Art movement.

Oldenburg's first New York exhibition took place in late 1958, when a selection of his drawings was included in a group show at Red Grooms' City Gallery. In 1959 he had his first public one-man show in New York - an exhibit of drawings and sculpture at the Judson Gallery. In 1962 Oldenburg's work was included in the "New Realists" Exhibition, which defined the Pop Art Movement. That show at the Sidney Janis Gallery largely defined the group of artists with which Oldenburg has since been associated.

Other major exhibitions of Oldenburg's work included a 1964 one-man show at the Sidney Janis Gallery and a 1969 retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art.

Philosophically, Oldenburg saw himself as a realist, not as an abstract artist. He felt art must relate to the realities of everyday life. Yet he took objects from the real world and placed them out of context, making them soft when they should be hard, large when they should be small. This paradox in his art grew out of his own nature, which was a complex mix of traditional and radical elements. "Reversing the expectations of hard sculpture, these huge collapsing objects rely on gravity and chance for their final form," noted the Phaidon Dictionary of Twentieth-Century Art. A writer for The Economist pointed out "in the spirit of the surrealists, he has muddled up the usual association of the senses. Things soft, he made hard, or the other way around: a muslin-and plaster roast of beef, a saggy portable typewriter. Things smooth, he has turned furry: ice-cream lollies made of fake-fur and kapok."

Strongly influenced by the writings of Sigmund Freud, Oldenburg underwent an intense period of self-analysis between 1959 and 1961. He carefully recorded his discoveries in notebooks, often including illustrative sketches. This endeavor helped him to shape his approach to art.

Oldenburg's style changed and developed over the years. He worked in a variety of modes, including drawing, painting, film, soft sculpture, and large scale sculpture in steel. After 1959 he was influenced by the theater. His involvement in "happenings" in the early 1960s resulted from his interest in both participatory art and Freudian free association.

Oldenburg often created variations on a theme (for example, Ray Gun of 1959 and Soft Drainpipe of 1967). He pointed to multiple sources of inspiration and encouraged his viewers to make multiple associations and draw multiple conclusions from the work. Many of his pieces were metaphors for parts of the human body, often having sexual connotations. Both Ray Gun and Soft Drainpipe may be seen as phallic symbols.

Oldenburg's early work, such as The Street (1960) and The Store (1961-1962), was rough-edged and primitive looking. It was inspired by tribal art, comics, graffiti, children's drawings, and the artwork of Jean Dubuffet. In 1963 his style changed to one of coolness, precision, and industrial polish. This change marked the beginning of his soft sculpture phase, when the materials of his early years - paper, canvas, plaster, and chicken wire - were replaced by vinyl, formica, and plexiglas. Among the well-known examples of his work in this mode were Soft Light Switches (1964) in the collection of the William Rockhill Nelson Gallery of Art, Kansas City, and Giant Soft Fan (1966-1967), a piece which was displayed in the American Pavilion at Expo '67 and was later in the Museum of Modern Art. Works such as these take objects of modern technology, which were made of rigid materials, and turned them into flexible floppy forms, which took on a variety of different shapes as they are hung, touched, or moved.

In the mid-1960s Oldenburg also began making projects for giant monuments. An exhibition of these proposals was held at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, in 1967. Most of these ideas (like a giant teddy bear for Central Park North) were pure fantasy, but the artist viewed some as feasible. Among those executed were the controversial Lipstick on Caterpillar Tracks (1969), which created an uproar when first erected at Yale University; Giant Icebag (1969-1970), which was motorized and inflates and deflates; and Flashlight (1981), a 38-foot steel monument on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

By taking mundane objects and presenting them out of context and in such colossal proportions, Oldenburg forced viewers to reassess their daily lives and values. His work was a social commentary on American popular culture and, by association, on contemporary society's approach to life itself. In 1995, a large traveling show of Oldenburg's works was organized by the National Gallery of Art and the Guggenheim Museum. It made stops in Los Angeles, London and Bonn. One work in it, From the Entropic Library (1989-90) consisted of a collection of books whose disoriented pell-mell structure fell upon a base that hosted other sheaves of text. Oldenburg's view of this work which people have termed "a monument to a disintegrating, somehow displaced European culture," was simple: "my single-minded aim is to give existence to fantasy."

Explore Claes Oldenburg Collection Explore Claes Oldenburg Collection
Print Claes Oldenburg Biography Print Claes Oldenburg Biography
Download Claes Oldenburg PDF Biography Download Claes Oldenburg PDF Biography

Disclaimer: The biography shown on this page is not meant to be a complete and comprehensive exploration of the life of the featured artist and is not guaranteed to be up-to-date. While information provided about each artist is carefully studied and reviewed prior to publishing; assumes no liability for the content provided on this page. Biography was last updated on . Please let us know if any information is out-of-date or inaccurate.

Copyright Notice: All videos and media are used with permission and are copyright of their respective owners. The unauthorized copying or distribution of such material is prohibited and is punishable by law.

Go to top of page.
Top Artists Subjects Collections Medium Price Size
Jennifer Vranes
Lucelle Raad
Stephen Shortridge
Simon Bull
Aldo Luongo
Sung Sam Park
Alexander Astahov
Peter Max
Marc Chagall
Patricia Govezensky
All Artists
Top Artists
Plants & Flowers
Celebrities & Movie Stars
Marine Life
All Subjects
Canvas Artwork on Demand
Salvador Dali Divine Comedy
Miami River Art Fair
Ann Storck Center
Marc Chagall Hadassah Windows
KAT - The Artist of the Stars
Walt Disney
Masters of the Louvre
Fine Art Photography
LeRoy Neiman
All Collections
Original Oil on Panel Board
Photography on Metal
Mug (Earthenware)
Gift Set
Original Pastel on Paper
Restrike Etching
Lithograph on Paper
Framed Memorabilia Item
Fine Art Book
All Media
$0 - $100
$100 - $400
$400 - $900
$900 - $1500
$1500 - $2500
$2500 - Over
Specify Price
Specifty Size
Dominant Color
Beige | Black | Blue | Brown | Crème | Gold | Green | Grey | Orange | Pink |   Specify Color
  Go to top of page.
About ArtRev.comContact InformationAffiliate ProgramCustomer ServiceTerms of UsePrivacy Toolbar
See on Houz