Adolph Gottlieb is born March 14, 1903, to his parents Emil and Elsie Gottlieb in New York city. The family is living on East 10th Street, opposite Tompkins Square Park. Adolph was the first child and only son, followed by his sisters, Edna and Rhoda.
Dissatisfied with high school, Gottlieb leaves school and begins working in his father’s stationery business. He enrolls in the Art Students League where he studies in the evenings. He takes art classes under John Sloan and attends lectures of Robert Henri.
Gottlieb and his family move to 1221 Grand Concourse in the Bronx. At age 17, Gottlieb, along with a high school friend, decide to go abroad. With no passports and little money, they both work their passage to Europe. Gottlieb lives in Paris for six months where he attends sketch classes at Academie de la Grande Chaumiere and visits the Louvre Museum every day. He remains in Europe for an additional year, traveling to Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Vienna, and Prague, visiting galleries and museums.
Gottlieb returns to New York. Urged by his parents to finish high school, Gottlieb attends classes in the evenings, while he works for his father. His return to New York is marked by frequent visits to museums and galleries, which he shares with his friend Barnett Newman. Gottlieb’s desire to be an artist leads him to study at Parsons School of Design, The Art Students League, Cooper Union and the Education Alliance Art School. It is at the Educational Alliance that Gottlieb befriends fellow artists Raphael Soyer and Chaim Gross. He meets John Graham through the Arts Students League.
Gottlieb begins showing at the Opportunity Gallery on 56th Street in New York in the late 1920s. Through the gallery he meets and begins lasting friendships with Milton Avery and Mark Rothko. Gottlieb also works several odd-jobs during this period, such as sign painting, teaching at settlement houses, summer camps, etc.
Gottlieb is awarded first prize in the Dudensing National Competition along with the artist Konrad Cramer. His prize is a solo exhibition at the Dudensing Galleries on East 57th Street, NYC.
Gottlieb now has a studio on East Broadway which he occasionally shares with Barnett Newman. His first solo exhibition at the Dudensing Gallery in New York opens in May.
Gottlieb moves with his family to 845 West End Avenue. On June 12th he marries Esther Dick. The couple spends their summer in Rockport, MA where Gottlieb continues to paint watercolors and oils. In September they rent an apartment at 14 Christopher Street in Manhattan.
Gottlieb changes the spelling of his name from Adolf to Adolph as a reaction to the election of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. In the summer, Adolph and Esther spend time in East Gloucester, MA along with Avery’s. They will continue to vacation in East Gloucester for the next three summers. In November, the Gottliebs move to 155 State Street in Brooklyn. Gottlieb becomes close friends with the artist David Smith, who lives a few doors away. Smith and Gottlieb visit daily until the Smith’s move to Bolton Landing, NY in 1940. Gottlieb begins making prints, which he will continue through 1947. He will pick up printmaking again in 1966.
Gottlieb has a solo exhibition at the Theodore A. Kohn Gallery in New York. He is also included in several exhibitions at the Gallery Secession.
Gottlieb becomes a founding member of “The Ten” a group of artists devoted to expressionist and abstract painting. The group’s first exhibition took place at the Montross Gallery in New York City. In July the Gottliebs travel to Europe visiting Amsterdam, Brussels, Tervuren and Paris. Gottlieb purchases five African sculptures in Paris.
In November “The Ten” have an exhibition at Galerie Bonaparte in Paris. At this time, Gottlieb joins the Easel Painting division of the WPA Federal project.
Gottlieb resigns from the WPA. In the summer, the Gottliebs visit the Avery’s in Bondeville, VT where Gottlieb and Avery draw and paint pastoral scenes. That fall, after Esther is advised by her doctor to go to a dry climate to improve her health, the Gottliebs move to the desert near Tucson, Arizona. In the eight months spent there, Gottlieb changes his painting style and creates about 50 paintings and an equal number of drawings.
The Gottliebs return to New York, then spend the summer in Provincetown, MA where Gottlieb sketches boxes on the beach. In September they move back to Brooklyn, to 121 Joralemon Street.
Gottlieb wins a U.S. Treasury sponsored nationwide mural competition. He is commissioned to paint a mural for the post office in Yerrington, Nevada. The mural is installed in 1941 where it is still on view today. Gottlieb is joined by eleven artists who resign from The Artists Congress as a protest against the Congress for not taking a stand against the Hitler-Stalin pact. That summer the Gottliebs rent a cabin in Woodstock, NY and visit with several artists friends.
Gottlieb has a solo exhibition at the Artists Gallery in New York City. He exhibits the still life paintings he made in Arizona.