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
Adolph Gottlieb, American (New York, NY 1903 - 1974 New York, NY)
Black Ground (recto)
Work Type
Creation Place: North America, United States
Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1200, Modern and Contemporary Art, Mid–century Abstraction I
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Physical Descriptions
Oil on canvas
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.)
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
© Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art
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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

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