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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Rudolf de Crignis, Swiss (Winterthur, Switzerland 1948 - 2006 New York City)
Other Titles
Alternate Title: #99.45
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas (cotton duck)
152.4 x 152.4 cm (60 x 60 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Rudolf de Crignis, New York, N.Y., 1999, 2001.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Purchase through the generosity of Credit Suisse, Zurich
© Estate of Rudolf de Crignis
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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The canvas has several layers of white gesso, each of which is sanded to achieve a smooth ground. The artist applies the gesso ground around the outer edges of the stretcher, so that the painted surface appears to be floating on a smooth white porcelain block. He applies color in thin layers of glaze, like so many veils. As many as 40 layers of glaze are built up over a period of several weeks. Laying down even, continuous brushstrokes in alternating layers of vertical and horizontal orientations, he creates a subtle grid pattern. The artist often applies one or more colors in addition to blue -- in this case, 6-8 layers of cinnabar green at different depths (traces of which can be seen around the edges of the painting). Layers of ultramarine in combination with royal blue (a mixture of ultramarine and titanium white) make the other colors vibrate, acting "as a catalyst to bring the involved colors into spacious movement on the top of the surface." (See artist's statement in object file.) The surface texture is purely the result of brushwork, which creates a structural discipline that interacts with the expansive dematerialized sensuality of blue.
After a successful and multi-faceted early career in Zurich (including sculpture, performance, installation and photography), Swiss artist De Crignis turned to painting at the end of the 1970s. He moved to New York after a visit there in 1985. His experience of the Swiss tradition of geometric abstraction coupled with his exposure in New York to works of Minimal Art, Radical Painting, and Concrete Art (by artists like Agnes Martin, Robert Ryman, Ad Reinhardt, and Brice Marden) led him to paint increasingly abstract pictures about color, light, and space. He has produced ultramarine paintings since around 1992 with the goal of achieving pictorial depth by only painterly means. Since there is no single focal point, viewers must adjust their own physical position(s) of viewing according to their perception of the picture. In the artist's own words, with "this lively act of perception, the work becomes a picture-space." Moreover, the square format manages to refer both to the material world, its dimensions determined by the artist's own body, and to the more Platonic tradition harking back to Malevich.

Publication History

  • Celka Straughn, Stratification: An Installation of Works since 1960, brochure, Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2005), [n.p.] ill. (color)
  • Peter Nisbet and Joseph Koerner, The Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums, ed. Peter Nisbet, Harvard University Art Museums and Scala Publishers Ltd. (Cambridge, MA and London, England, 2007), p. 20

Exhibition History

  • Stratification: An Installation of Works since 1960, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 09/17/2005 - 02/26/2006

Verification Level

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