Patti Garske Still (1920 – 2005) Wife and Woman Behind The Artist Clyfford Still

They say behind every great man is a great woman. Many artists had a great wife or partner, helping them along the way.

Patricia Garske Still, or Patti, was the Abstract Expressionism painter Clyfford Still’s second wife. Instead of pursuing her art career, she devoted her life to her husband Clyfford Still and his art and legacy. She was a key component of his success as one of the most influential Abstract Expressionism artists of the 20th Century.

About Patti Still – The Devoted Wife Of Clyfford Still

So often, when there is a great artist, a great woman or partner is behind them. As in the case of Patti Still, she was also an artist, but instead of pursuing her art, she devoted herself to helping her husband, Clyfford Still.

Clyfford Still With His Wife Patti Still

Clifford Still is considered one of the most influential American artists of the 20th century. He belonged to the first generation of abstract expressionism artists who developed the powerful yet innovative approach to painting known as Abstract Expressionism. He is mentioned, along with Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, as a color field painter for Abstract Expressionism.

Despite this, Clyfford Still is one of the least understood and written about Abstract Expressionism artists. Compared to many other Abstract Expressionism artists, Patti and Clyfford lived a tranquil life in Maryland, away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.

Patti was Clyfford’s second wife and 16 years younger than him. They had no children; he had two daughters from his first marriage to Lillian Battan.

Patti was born in Ione, Washington, but raised in Idaho. She met Still while studying art at the Washington State University in Pullman, Washington.

He was her teacher and 16 years her senior; Clyfford Still would have also been married then. Patti was a promising art student who was pursuing a degree and education in fine arts.

She quit school in Washington and followed Still to San Francisco, where he taught at the California School of Fine Art (now called San Francisco Art Institute). While in San Francisco, Patti pursued some art while working at the California School of Fine Art’s bookstore.

In 1950 she moved with Clyfford to New York, where Patti got an office job as a Comptometer operator for Standard Oil Company.

Patti And Clyfford Still Marry And Move To New Windsor, Maryland

In 1957 Patti and Still were able to get married after Still’s divorce was finalized from his first wife. By this time, they had been together for quite a long time; Patti always remained by his side, devoted to him and his art.

Patti was known to be a talented artist, but she gave it up to help Clyfford Still with his art.

Patti shows the sacrifice many women made during this time to support their husbands with their art while giving up their pursuit of art. We often forget that behind many of these great artists are a woman or partner who is also talented and capable.

Still’s daughter Diane S. Knox of Walnut Creek, CA, said this about her step-mother Patti and her devotion to her father Clyfford Still:

She devoted her life to his life, and to his art, … She provided a comfortable home so he could concentrate and paint.”

Diane S Know – Baltimore Sun Newspaper

After moving to New York and getting married, Clyfford and Patti Still decided to move out of New York City and settled in New Windsor, Maryland. They found a pretty old farmhouse with a barn that acted as Clyfford Still’s art studio.

Clyfford Still With His Painting

In speaking of the move, Still’s daughter Sandra L.S.Campbell said this about their move to Maryland to the Baltimore Sun Newspaper:

“The city had become noisy and dirty, and they wanted a more quiet place. So they jumped into his Jaguar and drove south, and found Westminster in Carroll County, …
“They found and bought a 22-acre farm in New Windsor with a barn and outbuildings, … They converted the barn into a studio where he was able to work and focus his creativity.”

Sandra L. S. CampbelL- Baltimore Sun Newspaper

This is where Patti and Stills would spend the rest of their lives; she would support Clyfford in his art.

Patti Became Clyfford Still’s Archivist

Patti used some of her artistic ability but mainly as an archivist for Clifford’s works. She reproduced his artwork into miniature watercolors so they could be documented and archived before an exhibition. She did this to ensure there was a record of his artwork.

From this reproduction that she left, we can see her skill as an artist and her devotion to Clyfford Still, the man she loved. Her life’s artistic work was essentially his life’s work to ensure his artistic legacy.

Listen To Our Podcast About The Untold Story Of Van Gogh’s Greatest Supporter below or by clicking here.

Patti Still Donates The Paintings For The Clyfford Still Museum

Clyfford Still And Patti Still Along With Their Friends at an exhibition of his work.

Near the end of her life, Patti made it her job to find someplace where she could donate more than 2000 of her husband’s works of art and ensure his legacy. These works of art were being stored in Maryland at their home and farm.

Several cities competed to receive the Clyfford Still Collection, which accounted for about 95% of Clyfford Still’s work from 1920 to 1980. Denver, Colorado, received the donation on the condition that they build a museum devoted to Clyfford Still’s artwork.

The museum was completed in 2011 and is a beautiful building in the Golden Triangle neighborhood of Denver, Colorado. In speaking of the building, the Denver Architecture Foundation said:

“The Clyfford Still Museum,which opened in 2011, was founded to promote public and scholarly understanding of the late artist’s work through the preservation and presentation of more than 94% of his total output. Denver competed with several other cities for Still’s collection and, in 2004, was selected by Still’s widow, Patricia, to receive the collection, plus additional archival materials, with the requirement that the city build a museum entirely devoted to his work.”

Denver Architecture Foundation

Until the day she died in 2005, at age 85, Patti Still worked to ensure her late husband’s legacy and that he not be forgotten. She ensured that his paintings could be enjoyed by many through the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, Colorado.

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