Visualizzazioni totali

mercoledì 12 aprile 2017

Barnett Newman (January 29, 1905 – July 4, 1970) Artist inspired by Anarchism

Barnett Newman

Barnett Newman (New York, 29 gennaio 1905 – New York, 4 luglio 1970) è stato un pittore e scultore statunitense.


Figlio di immigrati ebrei russi, negli anni trenta dipinse le sue prime opere, in stile espressionista. Deluso dai risultati, si avvicinò al surrealismo, entrando in contatto con altri artisti di New York, tra cui Mark Rothko, William Baziotes e Robert Motherwell. Fu grazie a queste amicizie che Newman si legò all'espressionismo astratto, sviluppando uno stile che si distaccava nettamente dalla arte europea contemporanea; in particolare, questo gruppo di artisti si avvicinò al color field painting, che si contrapponeva all'action painting.
Morì a New York per un infarto il 4 luglio 1970.


Lo stile di Newman è caratterizzato da zone variegate di colore separate da linee verticali, che formano rapporti armonici di sottile equilibrio e che tendono a dilatare lo spazio. Col tempo, la forma viene ridotta all'estremo e i colori puri sono stesi in modo uniforme su tele di grande formato attraversate da occasionali linee contrapposte. In questo si può intravedere un collegamento alla tradizione astratta di Piet Mondrian e Josef Albers; inoltre, l'uso del colore può essere visto come precursore di lavori di artisti come Frank Stella.
Molte pitture di Newman erano originariamente senza titolo: i nomi che successivamente diede loro sono spesso legati a temi della cultura ebraica. Newman fece anche sculture, acqueforti e litografie attraverso le quali cercava di trasportare la musica su tela.
Per molti anni le opere di Newman ricevettero pesantissime critiche: fu solo alla fine della sua vita che cominciò ad essere apprezzato come artista. È inoltre ricordato per l'importante influenza che ebbe sulla successiva generazione di giovani pittori, in particolare quelli legati al minimalismo.

Barnett Newman e l'anarchico Sublime
Studi anarchici
AS Volume 25 No. 1
Primavera 2017
Author (s):
Robert Genter
Barnett Newman

espressionismo astratto

Spesso trascurato nelle storie dell'espressionismo astratto è il ruolo che l'anarchismo come filosofia ha giocato nell'arte del dopoguerra fra i pittori americani come Barnett Newman. Per Newman, l'anarchismo non era semplicemente un programma di azione rivoluzionaria, ma un modo sperimentale di vita che, proprio come la pittura stessa, ha cercato di immaginare una vita vissuta libera da autorità coercitiva. Attraverso la sua pittura firma, che ha caratterizzato strisce verticali dipinte sulle tele colorate, Newman messo avanti una teologia politica radicale basato sugli scritti del filosofo olandese Baruch Spinoza e anarchico russo Peter Kropotkin. Nella sua arte, Newman ha presentato quello che potrebbe essere definito un anarchico sublime, un'esperienza estetica che ha aperto gli spettatori alla capacità espressiva dell'essere stesso.

National Gallery of Art - Barnett Newman - The Stations of the Cross - Lema Sabachthani
Rob Young from United Kingdom - National Gallery of Art - Barnett Newman - The Stations of the Cross - Lema Sabachthani

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. His paintings are existential in tone and content, explicitly composed with the intention of communicating a sense of locality, presence, and contingency.

Early life

Newman was born in New York City, the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland. He studied philosophy at the City College of New York and worked in his father's business manufacturing clothing. He later made a living as a teacher, writer and critic. From the 1930s on he made paintings, said to be in an expressionist style, but eventually destroyed all these works. Newman met art teacher Annalee Greenhouse in 1934; they were married on June 30, 1936.


What is the explanation of the seemingly insane drive of man to be painter and poet if it is not an act of defiance against man's fall and an assertion that he return to the Garden of Eden? For the artists are the first men.
— Barnett Newman 
Newman wrote catalogue forewords and reviews and also organized exhibitions before becoming a member of the Uptown Group and 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." Utilizing his writing skills, Newman fought to reinforce his newly established image as an artist and to promote his work. An example is his letter on April 9, 1955, "Letter to Sidney Janis: 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."
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, while simultaneously dividing and uniting the composition. Already 1944 Barnett Newman tried to explain America's newest art movement and included a list of "the men in the new movement." Ex-Surrealists, like Matta are mentioned, Wolfgang Paalen Paalen is mentioned twice together with Gottlieb, Rothko, Pollock, Hofmann, Baziotes, Gorky and others. Motherwell is mentioned with a question mark.
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 (2.43 meters by 4.1 centimeters), the zip is all there is to the work. Newman also made a few sculptures which are essentially three-dimensional zips.:511
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, 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" - the last words spoken by Jesus on the cross, according to the New Testament. 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, 28 feet wide by 9 feet tall (8.5 by 2.7 meters). 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 (1963) 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 seriously. He was, however, an important influence on many younger artists such as Donald Judd, Frank Stella and Bob Law.


Newman died in New York City of a heart attack in 1970.
Nine years after Newman's death, his 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." The foundation was instrumental in creating Newman's catalogue raisonné in 2004. The U.S. copyright representative for the Barnett Newman Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.

Selected collections

Among the public collections holding works by Barnett Newman are the Addison Gallery of American Art (Andover, Massachusetts), the Allen Memorial Art Museum (Oberlin College, Ohio), the Art Institute of Chicago, the Berlin State Museums, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Harvard University Art Museums, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Washington D.C.), the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Kawamura Memorial Museum of Art (Japan), Kunstmuseum Basel (Switzerland), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Menil Collection (Houston, Texas), the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid), the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Museum of Modern Art (New York City), the Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas, Texas), the Nassau County Museum of Art (Roslyn Harbor, New York), the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Sheldon Museum of Art (Lincoln, Nebraska), the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington D.C.), Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the Tate Gallery (London), the Wadsworth Atheneum (Hartford, Connecticut), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, Minnesota), the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum (Cologne, Germany), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York City).

Art market

After Newman had an artistic breakthrough in 1948, he and his wife decided that he should devote all his energy to his art. They lived almost entirely off Annalee Newman's teaching salary until the late 1950s, when Newman's paintings began to sell consistently. Ulysses (1952), a blue-and-black striped painting, sold in 1985 for $1,595,000 at Sotheby's to an American collector who was not identified Consigned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and previously part of Frederick R. Weisman's collection, Newman’s 8.5-by-10-foot Onement VI (1953) was sold for a record $43.8 million at Sotheby's New York in 2013; its sale was ensured by an undisclosed third-party guarantee. This was eclipsed on May 13, 2014 when Black Fire 1 sold for $84.2 million.

Barnett Newman and the Anarchist Sublime

Anarchist Studies
AS Volume 25 No. 1
Spring 2017
Robert Genter
Barnett Newman
abstract expressionism
Often overlooked in histories of abstract expressionism is the role that anarchism as a philosophy played in the art of postwar American painters like Barnett Newman. For Newman, anarchism was not merely a programme for revolutionary action but an experimental way of life that, much like painting itself, sought to imagine a life lived free from coercive authority. Through his signature painting style, which featured vertical stripes painted on coloured canvases, Newman put forth a radical political theology based on the writings of Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza and Russian anarchist Peter Kropotkin. In his art, Newman presented what might be called an anarchist sublime, an aesthetic experience that opened up viewers to the expressive capacity of being itself.

 The Blessing 
Barnett Newman · 1944

Barnett Newman · 1945

Kane Hall, University of Washington. View from in front of Suzzallo Library. At left is en:Barnett Newman's en:Broken Obelisk.
Joe Mabel - Photo by Joe Mabel

 It was not the inexperienced art public that became American Scenists. It was the artists themselves, a highly sophisticated group, thoroughly familiar with the art work and the art traditions of the world, who had flocked to Paris to participate in the great cultural center, who were very conscious of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists revolutions, who fell for this propaganda [to strive for a pure national American art]. It is upon them that responsibility falls. Their support of this reactionary philistinism is an inexcusable betrayal.. .It is time for the artists to wake up and re-examine their aesthetic foundations; to rid themselves of the millstone that has made art in America an expensive picture postcard-factory.. .It is time that artists refused isolationist money, repudiated the art dealers, the favor of the museum directors. It is time artists forgot about success..
  • Quote of 1942; in Barnett Newman', by Thomas B. Hess, museum of Modern art, New York 1971; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990, p. 124-125
Barnett Newman · 1945 
Barnett Newman
Date: 1946
Barnett Newman, Onement, I, 1948, oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 16 1/4″ / 69.2 x 41.2 cm (Museum of Modern Art, New York)

 Yellow Painting
Barnett Newman · 1949
Barnett Newman · 1949
The Voice
Barnett Newman · 1950

The Wild
Barnett Newman
Date: 1950
  • We feel that our pictures demonstrate our aesthetic beliefs, some of which we, therefore, list:
  1. To us art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take the risks.
  2. This world of imagination is fancy-free and violently opposed to common sense.
  3. It is our function as artists to make the spectator see the world our way not his way.
  4. We favor the simple expression of the complex thought. We are for the large shape because it has the impact of the nequivocal. We wish to reassert the picture plane. We are for flat forms because they destroy illusion and reveal truth.
  5. It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing. We assert that the subject is crucial and only that subject matter is valid which is tragic and timeless. That is why we profess spiritual kinship with primitive and archaic art.
Consequently if our work embodies these beliefs, it must insult anyone who is spiritually attuned to interior decoration; pictures for the home...
  • Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Adolph Gottlieb. "Manifesto," in: New York Times, June 13, 1943. Republished in: Stella Paul (1999), Twentieth-Century Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. p. 159
The Way I 
Barnett Newman 1951

 Vir heroicus sublimis
Barnett Newman
Date: 1950 - 1951
 Barnett Newman, Cathedra, 1951. Oil on canvas, 8′ x 18′

Barnett Newman · 1952

Barnett Newman · 1955
Barnett Newman · 1958

 The Station of the Cross - First Station
Barnett Newman · 1958

3. Third Station
Barnett Newman
Date: 1960
Barnett Newman · 1960

Canto VII
Barnett Newman
Date: 1963

Title Page from 18 Cantos
Barnett Newman · 1964

 Here II
Barnett Newman 1965

My idea was that with an automatic move you could create a world [comment on his series small mixed media works, 1944].
  • In: Abstract Expressionism, David Anfam, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London 1990, p. 112

 Barnett Newman's painting Voice of Fire 1967

.the terror to expect. Hiroshima showed it to us. The terror has indeed become as real as life.
  • Newman's essay of 1945, as quoted in: Abstract Expressionism, Davind Anfam, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London 1990, p. 20

Barnett Newman, Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III, 1967-68. Oil on canvas, 8′ x 18′

Let us, rather, like the Greek writers, tear the tragedy to shreds.
  • Newman's essay of 1945, as quoted in: Abstract Expressionism, Davind Anfam, Thames and Hudson Ltd., London 1990, p. 20

 Untitled No. 1 
Barnett Newman

[Concerning all painters] working in what is known as the abstract style: [the abstract form] is a living thing.. ..a carrier of the awesome feelings he felt before the unknowable [common quote of Barnett Newman, Clifford Still, and Mark Rothko, 1947]
In: the catalogue of the 'Ideographic Picture' show, New York, 1947

Untitled No. 2 
Barnett Newman 1969

Genesis I: 'The earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And God said, let there be light, and there was light.'
Short quote about his first Zip paintings, c. 1946-1948

Yellow Edge 
Barnett Newman     c. 1968

The Plasmic Image 1. 1943-1945

Barnett Newman, The Plasmic Image, 1943-1945; Republished in: Barnett Newman, ‎John Philip O'Neill (1992), Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews. p. 138-155
  • The subject matter of creation is chaos. The present feeling seems to be that the artist is concerned with form, color, and spatial arrangement. This objective approach to art reduces it to a kind of ornament. The whole attitude of abstract painting, for example, has been such that it has reduced painting to an ornamental art whereby the picture surface is broken up in geometrical fashion into a new kind of design-image. It is a decorative art built on a slogan of purism where the attempt is made for an unworldly statement...
    • p. 139
  • The failure of abstract painting is due to the confusion that exists in the understanding of primitive art [as well as that] concerning the nature of abstraction.
    • p. 139
  • All artists whether primitive or sophisticated, have been involved in the handling of chaos.
    • p. 139
  • Surrealism, is interested in a dream world that will penetrate the human psyche.
    • p. 140
  • The present painter is concerned not with his own feelings or with the mystery of his own personality but with the penetration into the world-mystery. His imagination is therefore attempting to dig into metaphysical secrets.
    • p. 140

Broken Obelisk in the University of Washington's Red Square
Barnett Newman - Own work; photographed by Gephart at English Wikipedia,

The Plasmic Image 2. 1943-1945

Barnett Newman, The Plasmic Image, 1943-1945; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990
  • The present painter is concerned not with his own feelings or with the mystery of his own personality but with the penetration into the world mystery. His imagination is therefore attempting to dig into metaphysical secrets. To that extend his art is concerned with the sublime. It is a religious art which through symbols will catch the basic truth of life which is its sense of tragedy.
    • p. 124
  • The present painter can be said to work with chaos not only in the sense that he is handling the chaos of the blank picture plane, but also in that he is handling the chaos of form. In trying to go beyond the visible and the known world he is working with forms that are unknown even to him. He is therefore engaged in a true act of discovery in the creation of new forms and symbols that will have the living quality of creation.
    • p. 125
  • ..the present painter is not concerned with the process. Herein lies the difference between them and the Surrealists. At the same time in his desire, in his will to set down the ordered truth.. can be said that the artist like a true creator is delving into chaos. It is precisely this that makes him an artist for the Creator in creating the world began with the same material, for the artist tries to wrest truth from the void..
    • p. 126
  • The new painter owes the abstract artist a debt for giving him his language, but the new painting is concerned with a new type of abstract thought.. .He [the new painter] is declaring that the art of Western Europe is voluptuous art first, an intellectual art by accident. He is reversing the situation by declaring that art is an expression of the mind first and whatever sensuous elements are involved are incidental to that expression. The new painter is therefore the true revolutionary, the real leader who is placing the artist's function on its rightful plane of the philosopher and the pure scientist who is exploring the world of ideas, not the world of the senses.. the artist is today giving us a vision of the world of truth in terms of visual symbols.
    • p. 127
  • We are freeing ourselves of the impediments of memory, association, nostalgia, legend, myth, or what have you, that have been the devices of western European painting. Instead of making 'cathedrals' out of Christ, man, or 'life', we are making it out of ourselves, out of our own feelings..
    • p. 127


1950 - 1960

  • Aesthetics is for painting as Ornithology is for the birds.
    • Newman (1952), quoted in: C. Greig Crysler, ‎Stephen Cairns, ‎Hilde Heynen (2012). The SAGE Handbook of Architectural Theory. p. 123
  • Painting, like passion, is a living voice, which, when I hear it, I must let it speak, unfettered.
    • Barnett Newman, "The New American Painting," exhibition catalogue May 28 - Sept 8. 1959. Republished in: Barnett Newman, John Philip O'Neill. (1992). Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews. p. 160

1960 - 1970

  • Does a man want to be an artist? Is it like he wants to be a priest, or a lawyer? Is the artist that kind of profession? Or, as I once actually wrote, I think every man is an artist. An artist is a matter of my birthright... what I'd like to be is a man in the world. And I paint in order to do a painting, not to... make myself into a so-called artist... I'm impelled to do something, to say something.
    • Barnett Newman in: American Artists, a 1966 TV Show on New York's educational television network. Quoted in: Caroline A. Jones (1998) Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist. p. 84
  • In 1940, some of us woke up to find ourselves without hope – to find that painting did not really exist. Or to coin a modern phrase, painting.. ..was dead. The awakening had a exaltation of a revolution. It was that awakening that inspired the aspiration – the high purpose – quite a different thing from ambition – to start from scratch, to paint as if painting never existed before. It was that naked revolutionary moment that made painters out of painters.
    • In: Jackson Pollock: An Artists Symposium, ARTnews Vol. 66 no. 2 April 1967; as quoted in Abstract Expressionism: Creators and Critics, ed. Clifford Ross, Abrahams Publishers, New York 1990, pp. 147-148
Concord 1948

Interview with David Sylvester 1. Spring 1965

  • ..[by making his work 'Onement', in 1948]..from then on I had to give up any relation to nature, as seen [by himself till then]. That doesn't mean that I think my things are mathematical or removed from life. By 'nature' I mean something very specific. I think that some abstractions - for example Kandinsky's - are really nature paintings. The triangles and the spheres or circles could be bottles. They could be trees, or buildings. I think that in 'Euclydean Abyss' and 'Onement' I removed myself from nature. But I did not remove myself from life.
    • interview, April 1965, edited for broadcasting by the BBC first published in 'The Listener', Aug. 1972; as quoted in Interviews with American Artists, by David Sylvester; Chatto & Windus, London 2001, p. 37

    The Moment
Barnett Newman · 1966
Broken Obelisk
Barnett Newman
Date: 1963 - 1969; United States 
Barnett Newman · 1969

Interview with David Sylvester 2. Spring 1965

(republished in: Barnett Newman, ‎John Philip O'Neill (1992), Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews. p. 254-259)
  • Sylvester: When was it that you first did a painting with one or two simple lines, horizontal or vertical, across the surface?
    Newman: I would say that it began in '46— '47. In those years, whenever I did a painting with one or two elements in it, it did always have a sense of an atmospheric background, I suppose — with the exception of a painting which I called Euclidian Abyss, where the background is black and has some of the white coming through, but there's no true atmosphere.
    • p. 255
  • The problem of a painting is physical and metaphysical the same as I think life is physical and metaphysical.
    • p. 259

Be I
Barnett Newman · 1970

Midnight Blue
Barnett Newman · 1970

Barnett Newman · ?

Quotes about Barnett Newman

  • You can tell in Léger just when he discovered how to make it like an engine.. ..What's wrong with that? You see it in Barney (=Barnett Newman) too, that he knows what a painting should be. He [Newman] paints as he thinks painting should be, which his pretty heroic
    • Franz Kline (1958), in Evergreen Review, vol. II, (no 6) autumn 1958, p. 11-15
  • I've always felt that Barnett Newman was an abstract expressionist.. .And I've always felt that Barnett Newman dealt with space and time/ space relationships and also approached his canvas with the same respect you do and applied as little to the surface of the canvas as necessary to make his aesthetic point.
    • quote of the interviewer S.C. in: 'Oral history interview with Agnes Martin', 1989 May 15; Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
  • Subject matter is not... eliminated from Newman's painting in any strict sense. In a monologue entitled The plastic Image (1943-45), Newman stresses the importance of subject-matter in painting. In the absence of subject-matter, he writes, painting becomes 'ornamental'.
    • w:Jean-François Lyotard (1991), The Inhuman: Reflections on Time, p. 81
Barnett Newman · ?
 Onement I
Barnett Newman · ?
Abstract Composition in Green and Red
Barnett Newman · ?

Untitled (Red, Yellow and Green Forms on a Purple Ground)
Barnett Newman · ?
 Broken Obelisk, Rothko Chapel, Houston, Texas
 Francisco Anzola - Barnett Newman




Nessun commento:

Posta un commento