About This Artwork

Ivan Albright
American, 1897–1983

That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door), 1931/41

Oil on canvas
246.4 x 91.4 cm (97 x 36 in.)
Signed lower right: Ivan Le Lorraine Albright

Mary and Leigh Block Charitable Fund, 1955.645

© The Art Institute of Chicago.

Replete with powerful imagery and bearing a long, philosophical title, That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door) is an evocative meditation on the choices and regrets in life. Ivan Albright considered The Door to be his most important picture, and he worked for ten years to achieve its mesmerizing effect. He spent weeks collecting props for the painting: a marred Victorian door found in a junkyard, a faded wax funeral wreath, and a tombstone for the doorsill. Once he arranged these objects, Albright completed an elaborate charcoal underdrawing that he then covered with the intricate and obsessively painted detail that characterizes most of his work. He would often finish no more than a quarter of a square inch a day. A wrinkled, aging woman’s hand rests on the carved doorway, a faded blue handkerchief clenched between the fingers. The poignant placement of the hand, near but not touching the doorknob, only underscores the sense of remorse and mourning implied by the painting. With its profound themes of mortality and the passage of time, The Dooris a modern memento mori that encourages a consideration of the brevity of human existence.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, 1938 International Exhibition of Paintings, Oct. 13–Dec. 4, 1938, cat. 2.

Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, Seventeenth Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Oil Paintings, Mar. 23–May 4, 1941, p. 43, cat. 48.

Art Institute of Chicago, Fifty-Second Annual Exhibition of American Paintings and Sculpture, Oct. 30, 1941–Jan. 4, 1942, cat. 2, pl. 7.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, American Realists and Magic Realists, Feb. 10–Mar. 21, 1943, p. 63, cat. 34; traveled to Buffalo, Albright Gallery, Apr. 5–May 5; Minneapolis Institute of Arts, July 1–30; San Francisco Museum of Art, Aug. 23–Sept. 19; Art Gallery of Toronto, Nov. 12–Dec. 19; Cleveland Museum of Art, Jan. 1–29, 1944.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Art in Progress, May 24–Oct. 8, 1944, pp. 109, 218 (ill.).

New York, Associated American Artists Galleries, The Albright Twins, Oct. 22–Nov. 10, 1945, cat. 1.

Chicago, Associated American Artists Galleries, The Albright Twins, Mar. 29–Apr. 17, 1946, cat. 2.

London, Tate Gallery, American Painting, June 1–July 31, 1946, p. 9, cat. 1.

Paris, Musée National d’art Moderne, 12 peintres et sculpteurs: Américains contemporains, April–June 1953, cat. 3.

City Art Museum of St. Louis, 200 Years of American Painting, Apr. 1–May 31, 1964, p. 44 (ill.).

New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Between the Fairs: 25 Years of American Art, 1939–1964, June 24–Sept. 23, 1964, pp. 16, 85 (ill).

Art Institute of Chicago, Ivan Albright, Oct. 30–Dec. 27, 1964, pp. 34, 37, cat. 18 (ill.); traveled to New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Feb. 3–Mar. 21, 1965.

Art Institute of Chicago, Art in Illinois: In Honor of the Illinois Sesquicentennial, June 15–Sept. 8, 1968 (no cat.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Works by Ivan L. Albright from the Collection, Oct. 21–Dec. 10, 1978, cat. 12 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, 100 Artists/100 Years: Alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Nov. 23, 1979–Jan. 20, 1980, pp. 11, 62, cat. 4 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, Ivan Albright, Feb. 20–May 11, 1997, cat. 24; traveled to New York, Metropilitan Museum of Art, June 10–Sept. 7, 1997.

Publication History

Manny Farber, “Artists for Victory: Metropolitan Museum of Art Opens Great Exhibition for American Artists,” Magazine of Art 35, 8 (Dec. 1942), pp. 276–77 (ill.).

Daniel Catton Rich, “Ivan Le Lorraine Albright: Our Own Jeremiah,” Magazine of Art 36, 2 (Feb. 1943), pp. 49–51 (ill.).

Margaret S. Marble [Margaret Sharp], The Lady Forgot (Harper, 1947), pp. 208–209.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 91.

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