Gallery Text

As a key figure of the New York school, Gottlieb vehemently defended abstraction against critics who saw the work as obscure and befuddling. His oppositional stance — and that of his peers — earned them the nickname “The Irascibles.” In Black Ground (1985.128.A), one of his Imaginary Landscape paintings, Gottlieb presents a mysterious world of symbols and colors that evoke the idea of landscape while not representing a specific place. The unfinished work on the other side (1985.128.B) dates from an earlier moment in his career. The allover pattern of symbols, organized within a grid, reflects Gottlieb’s interest in Jungian psychology, Greek mythology, and the forms of non-Western cultures. At a moment when the United States was emerging from World War II, Gottlieb proposed that the very act of painting was a heroic quest for meaning in an unstable age.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1985.128.A
People
Adolph Gottlieb, American (New York, NY 1903 - 1974 New York, NY)
Title
Black Ground (recto)
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1956
Places
Creation Place: North America, United States
Culture
American
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/227225
Location
Level 1, Room 1200, Modern and Contemporary Art, Mid–century Abstraction I
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on canvas
Dimensions
35.9 x 45.7 cm (14 1/8 x 18 in.)
framed: 38.74 x 48.9 x 3.49 cm (15 1/4 x 19 1/4 x 1 3/8 in.)
Provenance
Adolph Gottlieb; to [André Emmerich Gallery, New York, New York], sold; to Mr. and Mrs. Harold Gershinowitz, New York, New York, gift; to Harvard University Art Museums, 1985.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Gershinowitz
Copyright
© Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
1985
Object Number
1985.128.A
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
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Exhibition History

Modern Art at Harvard, Bunkamura Museum of Art, Tokyo, 07/31/1999 - 09/26/1999; Takamatsu City Museum of Art, Kagawa, 10/09/1999 - 11/14/1999; Matsuzakaya Art Museum, Nagoya, 12/02/1999 - 12/27/1999; Oita City Museum, Oita, 01/06/2000 - 02/06/2000; Museum of Modern Art, Ibaraki, Ibaraki, 02/11/2000 - 03/26/2000

The Spiritual in Art: From the Blue Rider to the Abstract Expressionism, Museum Wiesbaden, 65185 Wiesbaden, 10/31/2010 - 02/24/2011

32Q: 1200 Mid-Century Abstraction I (Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu