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Gallery Text

By the late 1950s and early ’60s, abstraction dominated the artistic landscape in West Germany; it was often polemically aligned with democratic principles, in opposition to the state-imposed realism of both the Nazi era and contemporary East Germany. In 1959, at the second documenta, a major exhibition of modern and contemporary art, a large painting by Nay presided over one of two main exhibition spaces, while the work of Jackson Pollock filled the other. The so-called “American invasion” by abstract expressionists that year had a lasting effect on the development of postwar German art. Although Nay omitted all figurative references from his work in the 1950s, his series of paintings from 1963–65, dubbed “Eye Pictures,” features large circular shapes rendered in distinct color contrasts.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Ernst Wilhelm Nay, German (Berlin, Germany 1902 - 1968 Cologne, Germany)
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
162 x 150.7 cm (63 3/4 x 59 5/16 in.)
framed: 165.5 x 154.3 x 3.9 cm (65 3/16 x 60 3/4 x 1 9/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: in oil at l.r.: Nay 64.
  • label: on stretcher at u.l., printed and handwritten: HAUS DER KUNST MUNCHEN / Austellung: E. W. Nay [...]
  • label: on stretcher at u.c., printed: GALERIE BEYELER BASEL / Austellung / E. W. NAY / Seraphim, 1964 / 3.6. - 31.9.2002 / Nr. 9/WV 1100
  • label: on stretcher at l.c., printed: 41 SERAPHIM 1964 / Privatbesitz
  • label: on stretcher at c.r., printed: GALERIE MICHAEL WERNER [...]
  • inscription: on stretcher at u.l., handwritten, in artist's hand: NAY - "Seraphim" - 1964
  • inscription: on stretcher at l.r., handwritten: 288 Nay Scheibler


Recorded Ownership History
Elisabeth Nay-Scheibler, by inheritance, 1964, sale, 2003.
Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum, purchase, 2003, gift to the Busch-Reisinger Museum, 2003.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of the Acquisitions Committee of the Friends of the Busch-Reisinger Museum on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the Museum
© E. Nay-Scheibler. Koln / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

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Publication History

  • Aurel Scheibler, Ernst Wilhelm Nay. Werkverzeichnis der Gemälde, DuMont (Cologne, Germany, 1990), no. 1100, col. ill. - vol. 2, p.267
  • Nay-Variationen. Retrospektive zum 100. Geburtstag, exh. cat. Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung Munich and Kunstmuseum Bonn , exh. cat., DuMont (Cologne, Germany, 2002), no. B90, col. ill.
  • 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. 68

Exhibition History

  • 32Q: 1200 Mid-Century Abstraction I (Painterly Abstraction), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 04/06/2017

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