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A graphite and watercolor drawing on graph paper.

The drawing shows a square with a red disc in the top center over a light brown vertical shape with uneven lines radiating from it to the right and left. A red line is roughly drawn below with thinner lines extending down in a zigzag pattern. In the lower left corner of the sheet is an octagonal shape outlined in brown with a palm tree in the center, three of the sides on the left are surrounded by black with a brown streak and two black shapes on the right, a light gray circle partially encloses the figure.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Sigmar Polke, German (Oels (Silesia), Germany 1941 - 2010 Cologne, Germany)
Untitled (Palms)
Other Titles
Original Language Title: Palmen
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Watercolor and graphite on squared off-white wove paper
21 x 12 cm (8 1/4 x 4 3/4 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: in ink at l.r.: S Polke 66


Recorded Ownership History
Sigmar Polke, 1966.
René Block, Berlin, Germany, 1966.
Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA, 1999, to HUAM, 2000.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Antonia Paepcke DuBrul Fund, American Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum Fund, and Purchase in memory of Eda K. Loeb
© The Estate of Sigmar Polke / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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In the 1960s, Polke developed a deliberately crude drawing idiom, using modest formats and materials to depict seemingly banal and commonplace subjects. Often his theme was the blandishments of the burgeoning consumerist society of the Federal Republic, and this drawing invokes one of his set markers of this theme: the palm tree, as an index of the cliché-ed yearning at the heart of tourist fantasy. The European, and specifically German "Drang nach Süden," the urge towards the South, is a definite target of the artist's satire here. (For drawings with related motifs of the mid-60s, see the exhibition catalogues Sigmar Polke: Works on Paper, 1963-1974 [New York: MoMA, 199], cat. nos. 31, 79, and 175, and Sigmar Polke: Zeichnungen [etc.] [Bonn, 1988], no. 413.) This drawing sets the palm into an octagonal frame (a picture? a decorative tile?), which is then further surrounded by the sketched-in forms of a possibly three-dimensional structure and an encircling oval (for related use of irregularly shaped enframing lines, shadowed in black, see MoMA cat. no. 85, also of 1966). Above these somewhat tentative compositional explorations is a second image, a schematic representation of a sunset (or sunrise) with reflections in clouds and the water's waves -- an almost Munch- or Gauguin-like rendering of an equally romantic landscape of desire. While this drawing does not have the cartoon-like immediacy and crudity of many of Polke's other images of the 1960s (especially those jokey drawings using ball-point pen of 1963 and the following years), the unresolved working-out of the format and image give it a freshness and a tension that other such works sometimes lack.

Publication History

  • 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. 38

Exhibition History

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

Verification Level

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