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Untitled (Ocean)

Vija Celmins, American (born Latvia), born 1938

Made in United States, North and Central America


Graphite on wove paper prepared with white acrylic paint

Sheet: 14 x 18 3/4 inches (35.6 x 47.6 cm)

Curatorial Department:
Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

Object Location:

Currently not on view

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Purchased with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, and with matching funds contributed by Marion Boulton Stroud, Marilyn Steinbright, the J. J. Medveckis Foundation, David Gwinn, and Harvey S. Shipley Miller, 1991

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In this highly finished drawing, Celmins used graphite pencils on paper primed with a thin white acrylic ground. The even strokes and dense tonal gradations produce a sheen in the darkest areas that can be seen when viewing the drawing from below.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art Handbook (2014 Edition)

    Vija Celmins has spent her career exploring the dialogue between fact and fiction in her quiet renditions of scenes from nature based on photographs, such as Untitled (Ocean), which lacks a point of reference or discernible depth of field. Working primarily in nuanced palettes of blacks and grays, Celmins creates these images of seemingly limitless space—seascapes, night skies, and the barren desert floor—with an uncanny accuracy, often spending months on a single drawing. This is among the earliest and finest of her iconic ocean images in which she achieves an eloquent balance between abstraction and reality through her fastidious application of graphite. Shelley Langdale from, Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook. Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2014, p. 369.