Artist Anton Van Dalen, Known for His Radiant Cityscapes, Dies at 86

The artist loved birds, often featuring them prominently in his paintings.

Anton van Dalen, 1966. Photo: Tom Warren, courtesy of PPOW.

Anton van Dalen, the Dutch American artist who became a mainstay in New York’s Lower East Side during the post-war era with his “Birdhouse” series of paintings, has died. He was 86.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Anton van Dalen,” PPOW Gallery, which represents the artist, said in a statement. “We can confirm that Anton died peacefully in his sleep from natural causes surrounded by his family, in his beloved home in the East Village, on June 25.”

Van Dalen was born on November 11, 1938, in Amstelveen, Netherlands, to a conservative Calvinist family, according to his PPOW biography. He studied at the former Amsterdamse Grafische School, then a prestigious institution specializing in graphic arts and printing, from which he graduated in 1954.

His family left the Netherlands after World War II for Canada and he ultimately settled in New York City around 1966. Apart from being a gifted artist, Van Dalen served as an assistant to the late artist Saul Steinberg of the New Yorker and taught at the School of Visual Arts in New York.

“From his earliest days, arriving from Holland and settling into the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he contributed to establishing a conversation about how art can be used to support social movements and unrepresented minorities,” the gallery said in its statement. “Forever present Anton will be greatly missed.”

Anton van Dalen with his pigeons from the documentary Anton: Circling Home (2020). Photo by Anthony Lindsey.

Anton van Dalen with his pigeons from the documentary Anton: Circling Home (2020). Photo by Anthony Lindsey.

Van Dalen’s work is celebrated for its intricate, often surreal cityscapes teeming with birds and other wildlife. In a coop installed on the roof of his East Village apartment, he bred his own pigeons, birds that he recalled in 2023 were meaningful to him.

“The pigeons have been my companions since I was a child. I had a childhood that was sort of independent, so the birds became my companions, and they also became my subject of my work overtime,” Van Dalen said of his beloved birds. “Every late afternoon, I go up on my roof and bring them their food, spend some time with them, and bring fresh water.”

In that same interview with Artnet News’s Sarah Cascone, Van Dalen revealed that that he had always kept his studio space in his home, which he lived in since 1971, and never had a studio assistant. There, Van Dalen raised two children—Jason and Marinda—with his wife.

Van Dalen’s last solo show with PPOW was 2022’s “Doves: Where They Live and Work.”

“I think a lot of the way I work comes out of having grown up in Holland around works by Dutch artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Van Gogh, who felt like their work had to be a reflection of immediate life around them,” Van Dalen said. “It’s directly about common life, and often matters of home or near home or around home. I grew up with all these artists and I think they still personify what I am trying to do today, which is making my art very realistic about the actual life I live.”

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