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A painting of a red rectangle on a two-toned green background with black lines at the base.

The painting shows a thick red rectangle vertically placed slightly off-center to the right. It rises from the top of five black and five green horizontal lines of uneven thicknesses which are applied across the width of the bottom quarter of the painting. The background is two-toned light green, the lightest green is applied to the top third.

Gallery Text

Before Stella created the emblematic black paintings with which he first came to prominence, he produced a series that explored the possibilities of conveying architectural space on a canvas. These “transitional” paintings are composed of repetitive lines, bands, and boxed areas rendered in washy brushstrokes. Red River Valley displays a distinct architectural structure that Stella referred to as “a door,” as this and other paintings from the period are loosely based on the cheap storefronts around his New York City studio. While employing the painterly effects of abstract expressionism, these works occupy a critical juncture in Stella’s thinking as he began to move toward exploring purely abstract geometric and striped patterns. His rejection of both three-dimensional illusionism and emphatic literalism — he claimed that in his work, “what you see is what you see” — resounded well into the 1960s, especially in minimalism and conceptual art.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Frank Stella, American (Malden, MA 1936 - 2024 New York, New York)
Red River Valley
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
230.51 x 200.03 x 6.99 cm (90 3/4 x 78 3/4 x 2 3/4 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Lawrence Rubin, New York, New York, gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1973.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Lawrence Rubin
© Frank Stella / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Caroline A. Jones, Modern Art at Harvard: The Formation of the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Collections of the Harvard University Art Museums (New York, NY and Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press, 1985). With an essay by John Coolidge and a preface by John M. Rosenfield. To accompany the inaugural exhibition at the Sackler Museum, Oct 21 1985 - Jan 5 1986, reproduced in color, fig. 70, p. 77
  • Lawrence Rubin, Frank Stella, Paintings 1958-1965: a catalogue raisonné, Stewart, Tabori and Chang (New York, NY, 1986), no. 14, reprodced in b/w
  • Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 239, p. 209, repr. in b/w
  • Maria Gough, Frank Stella is a Constructivist, October, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA, 2007), Volume 119, 94-120, pp. 94-120
  • Benjamin Buchloh, Painting as Diagram: Five Notes on Frank Stella’s Early Paintings, October, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA, 2013), Volume 143, 126-144, pp. 126-144

Exhibition History

  • Master Paintings from the Fogg Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 04/13/1977 - 08/31/1977
  • Modern Art at Harvard, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/21/1985 - 01/05/1986
  • Frank Stella 1958, Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 02/04/2006 - 05/07/2006; Menil Collection, Houston, 05/26/2006 - 08/20/2006; Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, 09/16/2006 - 12/31/2006
  • 32Q: 1200 Mid-Century Abstraction I (Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/03/2021

Verification Level

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