William Baziotes, American, 1912 - 1963


Oil on canvas

19 3/4 x 24 3/16 inches (50.2 x 61.4 cm)

Research inconclusive. Copyright may apply.

Curatorial Department:
American Art

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Anne d'Harnoncourt Rishel, 1982

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Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    Using delicate washes of color and imagery culled from nature, from paleontology, and from his own free associations, Baziotes invented a new type of landscape painting in the 1940s. He was one of the first of his generation to make contact with the émigré Surrealist painters in New York, where he moved from Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1933. Baziotes balanced the Surrealists' advocacy of spontaneity with imagery he retained from his visits to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, a laboratory that fueled the imaginations of many artists at the time. In sparse, horizonless compositions of simple biomorphic shapes, he evoked a liquid underworld of plants and organisms and the atmosphere of primeval life as natural metaphors for inner psychic realms.

    Baziotes remained absorbed by the Surrealist search for poetic and painterly correspondences for the unconscious into the 1950s, when he withdrew into isolation from his peers. During this decade he completed only a small number of paintings each year, and the works themselves suggest a more thoughtful, meditative working process in which he distilled the elements of his pictures to a few essential components. Painted during this culminating period, Night derives its power from subtly gauged, diaphanous color harmonies and the quiet drama that results from the placement of its few simple shapes and its wiry linear web. Haunting and amorphous, the imagery of Night transports the viewer to a dreamy state of contemplation, leaving much open to imaginative interpretation. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 96.