Issue Date: March 11, 2010
City: Buffalo, NY
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut
Barnett Newman – Achilles
Barnett Newman (1905-70) stated, “I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone, as it did me, the feeling of his own totality, of his own separateness, of his own individuality.” Newman accomplished this in works that have been regarded for their high-quality painting as well as philosophical statements.
Newman began studying art in high school and college as he earned a degree in philosophy. In the early 1940s, he took a break from art and produced a great deal of writing on philosophy and art. By 1944, Newman was inspired by Surrealism to start painting again. Other important influences on his style included Alberto Giacometti, Piet Mondrian, and Auguste Macke.
In 1948, Newman developed the “zip” – a thin vertical line surrounded by flat color, intended to envelope the viewer in the piece and physically and emotionally fill them with the “original spark of life.” Newman’s 1952 oil and acrylic painting, Achilles, features an uncommonly expanded zip. The red, fiery shape spreading down the canvas is seen as a reference to the shield created for Achilles by Hephaestus (patron of metal works and god of fire) in Homer’s Iliad.
Newman’s influence spread beyond Abstract Expressionism, influencing a generation of minimalist painters, and opening new doors to what painting could be.