Skip to Content
Closed now, next open Thursday. Closed now, next open Thursday.

Explosion at Sea

A work made of oil on canvas.

Image actions

  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Vija Celmins
American, born Latvia, 1938

About this artwork

Explosion at Sea belongs to a group of paintings by Vija Celmins on the themes of war, technology, and devastation. In the mid-1960s, the artist began to use photographs from books, magazines, and newspapers found at secondhand stores and yard sales as the point of departure for her work. After locating a wealth of material on World War II—a conflict that was the backdrop of her childhood in Latvia—Celmins employed subtle layers of precise brushstrokes to construct a detailed image of an attack on an aircraft carrier. The resulting painting, like most of her works of this moment, creates a disturbing contrast between the intimacy of the format and brushwork and the haunting seriousness of the theme.


Currently Off View


Contemporary Art


Vija Celmins


Explosion at Sea


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


34.3 × 59.7 cm (13 1/2 × 23 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Lannan Foundation

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions