The Beginning

Blue and gray abstract painting with lines of yellow, white, and red crossing vertically.
© 2018 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • Blue and gray abstract painting with lines of yellow, white, and red crossing vertically.

Date:

1946

Artist:

Barnett Newman
American, 1905-1970

About this artwork

A key figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement, Barnett Newman is widely considered one of the most innovative and influential painters of the twentieth century. A brilliant colorist and a master of expansive spatial effects, he pioneered a new pictorial language that was at once emphatically abstract and powerfully emotive. For Newman, the spiritual content of abstract art was of paramount importance. Although his works seem largely focused on the formal qualities of painting, he insisted that they possessed symbolic meaning. This meaning was never explicit, but he often alluded to it in the titles of his works, as with The Beginning. In the mid-1940s Newman became preoccupied with the Old Testament story of Creation and began selecting titles in reference to the book of Genesis. In this painting, the bands of paint that emerge from the base of the canvas interrupt a richly variegated field of color, a sort of primordial fog. The artist created these three stripes with the aid of masking tape, which he applied to the canvas as a guideline before adding the surrounding color. This work is an important precursor to Newman’s mature paintings, which are characterized by a single vertical band, or “zip,” that divides the composition.

Currently Off View

Contemporary Art

Artist

Barnett Newman

Title

The Beginning

Origin

United States

Date

1946

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

None

Dimensions

101.6 × 75.6 cm (40 × 29 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison

Reference Number

1989.2

Copyright

© 2018 Barnett Newman Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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 .

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