Barnett Newman


Barnett Newman

Infobox Artist
bgcolour = silver
name = Barnett Newman


imagesize = 250px
caption = "Onement 1", 1948. Museum of Modern Art, New York. The first example of Newman using the so-called "zip" to define the spatial structure of his paintings
birthname =
birthdate = birth date |1905|1|25|
location = New York City, New York
deathdate = death date and age |1970|7|4|1905|1|25|
deathplace =
nationality = American
field = Painting
training =
movement = Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting
works = "The Stations of the Cross," "Vir Heroicus Sublimus,"
patrons =
influenced by =
influenced =
awards =

Barnett Newman (January 29, 1905 – July 4, 1970) was an American artist. He is seen as one of the major figures in abstract expressionism and one of the foremost of the color field painters.

Youth

Newman was born in New York City, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants. [http://www.barnettnewman.org/chronology.php The Barnett Newman Foundation website: Chronology of the Artist's Life page] ] He studied philosophy at the City College of New York and worked in his father's business manufacturing clothing. From the 1930s he made paintings, said to be in an expressionist style, but eventually destroyed all these works.

A well respected writer and critic who also organized exhibitions and wrote catalogs, Newman later became a member of the Uptown Group.

Career

Barnett Newman wrote catalogue forewords and reviews before having his first solo show at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1948. Soon after his first exhibition, Newman remarked in one of the Artists' Session at Studio 35: "We are in the process of making the world, to a certain extent, in our own image." ["Barnett Newman Selected Writings and Interviews", (ed.) by John P. O'Neill, pgs.: 240-241, University of California Press, 1990.] Utilizing his writing skills, Newman fought every step of the way to reinforce his newly established image as an artist and to promote his work. An example is his letter in April 9, 1955, "Letter to Sidney Janis: ---It is true that Rothko talks the fighter. He fights, however, to submit to the philistine world. My struggle against bourgeois society has involved the total rejection of it." ["Barnett Newman Selected Writings and Interviews", (ed.) by John P. O'Neill, p.: 201, University of California Press, 1990).]

Throughout the 1940s he worked in a surrealist vein before developing his mature style. This is characterised by areas of color separated by thin vertical lines, or "zips" as Newman called them. In the first works featuring zips, the color fields are variegated, but later the colors are pure and flat. Newman himself thought that he reached his fully mature style with the "Onement" series (from 1948). The zips define the spatial structure of the painting, whilst simultaneously dividing and uniting the composition.

The zip remained a constant feature of Newman's work throughout his life. In some paintings of the 1950s, such as "The Wild", which is eight feet tall by one and a half inches wide, the zip is all there is to the work. Newman also made a few sculptures which are essentially three-dimensional zips.

Although Newman's paintings appear to be purely abstract, and many of them were originally untitled, the names he later gave them hinted at specific subjects being addressed, often with a Jewish theme. Two paintings from the early 1950s, for example, are called "Adam" and "Eve" (see Adam and Eve), and there is also "Uriel" (1954) and "Abraham" (1949), a very dark painting, which as well as being the name of a biblical patriarch, was also the name of Newman's father, who had died in 1947."The Stations of the Cross" series of black and white paintings (1958-66), begun shortly after Newman had recovered from a heart attack, is usually regarded as the peak of his achievement. The series is subtitled "Lema sabachthani" - "why have you forsaken me" - words spoken by Christ on the cross. Newman saw these words as having universal significance in his own time. The series has also been seen as a memorial to the victims of the holocaust.

Newman's late works, such as the "Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue" series, use vibrant, pure colors, often on very large canvases - "Anna's Light" (1968), named in memory of his mother who had died in 1965, is his largest work, twenty-eight feet wide by nine feet tall. Newman also worked on shaped canvases late in life, with "Chartres" (1969), for example, being triangular, and returned to sculpture, making a small number of sleek pieces in steel. These later paintings are executed in acrylic paint rather than the oil paint of earlier pieces. Of his sculptures, "Broken Obelisk" (1968) is the most monumental and best-known, depicting an inverted obelisk whose point balances on the apex of a pyramid.Newman also made a series of lithographs, the "18 Cantos" (1963-64) which, according to Newman, are meant to be evocative of music. He also made a small number of etchings.

Newman is generally classified as an abstract expressionist on account of his working in New York City in the 1950s, associating with other artists of the group and developing an abstract style which owed little or nothing to European art. However, his rejection of the expressive brushwork employed by other abstract expressionists such as Clyfford Still and Mark Rothko, and his use of hard-edged areas of flat color, can be seen as a precursor to post painterly abstraction and the minimalist works of artists such as Frank Stella.

Newman was unappreciated as an artist for much of his life, being overlooked in favour of more colorful characters such as Jackson Pollock. The influential critic Clement Greenberg wrote enthusiastically about him, but it was not until the end of his life that he began to be taken really seriously. He was, however, an important influence on many younger painters.

Newman died in New York City of a heart attack in 1970.

Nine years after his death, Newman's widow Annalee founded the Barnett Newman Foundation. The Foundation not only functions as his official Estate, but also serves "to encourage the study and understanding of Barnett Newman's life and works." [ [http://www.barnettnewman.org/about.php The Barnett Newman Foundation website: About the Foundation page] ] The Foundation was instrumental is creating Newman's Catalogue Raisonne in 2004. [ [http://www.barnettnewman.org/catalogue.php The Barnett Newman Foundation website: Catalogue Raisonne page] ] The U.S. copyright representative for the Barnett Newman Foundation is the Artists Rights Society [ [http://arsny.com/requested.html Most frequently requested artists list of the Artists Rights Society] ] .

ee also

*"Voice of Fire" painted by Newman in 1967.

Books

* Marika Herskovic, [http://www.worldcatlibraries.org/oclc/50253062&tab=holdings "American Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s An Illustrated Survey,"] (New York School Press, 2003.) ISBN 0-9677994-1-4

References

External links

* [http://www.barnettnewman.org/ The Barnett Newman Foundation] -
* [http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/exhibitions/newman/ Newman exhibition at the Tate Gallery]
* [http://www.philamuseum.org/micro_sites/exhibitions/newman/index.html Newman exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art]
* [http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/ArtistWorks?cgroupid=999999961&artistid=1699&page=1&sole=y&collab=y&attr=y&sort=default&tabview=worklist Newman's page at the Tate Gallery] (includes images of the "18 Cantos" and other works)


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