Barnett Newman

Gallery Ten

Barnett Newman made no works on paper in the 1950s, but as the decade turned he started to create drawings again, and learned printmaking. His series of lithographs titled 18 Cantos, made in 1963-64, is displayed in the center of this room. The size restriction imposed by the lithographic press presented a keen challenge to an artist greatly invested in the effects of scale, and led Newman to use the margins of the pages, in addition to color and composition, to define the character of each canto. The series, dedicated to his wife Annalee, is the artist's only work that openly expresses his great fondness for music. Describing their interaction as a set, Newman's printed preface declares that "each canto adds its song to the full chorus."

In 1968 Newman turned to etching for the first time. The resulting Notes, initially intended to be only studies, offer rare insight into the developmental process of an artist who left behind very few sketches. Newman's strokes and scratchings reveal his growing familiarity with the copper plates on which he drew, and from which the printer would make the final sheets. The intimate scale of these prints eloquently chronicles Newman's intuitive way of working, something possible to forget in the powerful presence of his massive paintings. The two larger, untitled etchings of 1969 transpose what he learned from Notes into single, authoritative statements.

click image to enlarge
Ink on paper
12 x 9 inches (30.5 x 22.9 cm)

Collection of Jasper Johns
Photograph by Bruce White, Courtesy of the Barnett Newman Foundation.
Untitled Etching #1
Etching and aquatint on paper
31 5/8 x 22 5/8 inches (80.2 x 57.5 cm)
Impression 25/28

Published by Universal Limited Art Editions.
Printed by Donn Steward.
Courtesy of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University Art Museums. Gift of Annalee Newman.
Photograph by Bruce White, Courtesy of the Barnett Newman Foundation.
Philadelphia Museum of Art