Robert Kipniss (born Brooklyn, New York, February 1, 1931) is an American painter and printmaker. His mature paintings, lithographs, mezzotints, and drypoints share stylistic characteristics and subject matter and typically depict trees seen close up or at varying distances in fields. Other works show one or more houses in a landscape or town setting. Some are interiors with a view toward a window or with a still life set close to one, frequently with a landscape beyond. No human figures are present, and all forms are reduced to essentials. The time is often dusk or nighttime. Kipniss’ use of exceptionally subtle black and white tones or, less often, lightly toned hues creates an overall atmospheric effect. His works have been described as conveying solitude and inward experience. Kipniss often uses the subject matter of a painting in a lithograph or mezzotint, sometimes with variations. His paintings date from the early 1950s. His main body of prints are lithographs and mezzotints, the former dating from 1968 into 1990, the latter since 1990.
Kipniss himself has indicated various locations as important sources of inspiration, especially on his scenes with houses. The locations include the streets and neighborhoods of Springfield, Ohio, which he sometimes sketched during his first two college years and revisited in 1979, taking photographs and sketching alleys and streets at twilight. He returned over the next twenty years to continue sketching. In 1999 Kipniss described how this location influenced his artistic development: “‘The elements that remain a large part of my imagery all my working life began to emerge in these sketches: mysterious windowless houses, backyard fences, trees leafless in the off-season. . . . My work remains unpopulated because I can then become as if the lone inhabitant, and when the work leaves my hands, who stands before it becomes for a moment me, alone, there.’”
Other locations that inspired Kipniss were alleys in Columbus, Ohio, which he sketched in 1958. In 1989 he briefly visited Elsah, Illinois, a small town on the Missouri River (since 1974 on the National Register of Historic Places) where the narrow streets and many limestone houses made an impression on him. He returned the next year to do sketches that became the basis of works in other mediums. In 1993 the woods and fields of northwestern Connecticut provided inspiration for paintings and mezzotints.