Born in New York City in 1923, Rivers studied music at the Julliard School and was a jazz saxophonist for several years before becoming a painter. A Post-Abstract Expressionist, Rivers forged his own style, somewhere between abstraction and realism. Rejecting the pure abstraction of Abstract Expressionism, Rivers used recognizable figures into his work, combining blurred images with precise lines. In 1955, he caused a sensation with his Washington Crossing the Delaware, incorporating historical elements that went against the grain of Abstract Expressionism. Poet Frank OHara captured the essence of Rivers dynamic personality: "I have known Larry Rivers since 1950.. It was at a cocktail party we met, as one always meets people in New York, and waving at the crowd he said, 'After all, it's life we're interested in, not art.' A couple of weeks later when I visited his studio for the first time . . . he said with no air of contradiction or remembrance, 'After all, it's art we're interested in, not life.' His main interest was obviously in the immediate situation."