Technique and condition

Painted on cotton duck, this painting has a traditional construction. The fabric is tacked to an expandable stretcher. It is sized then primed with white oil paint. The artist laid in a thin wash of crimson oil paint, then, when dry, using masking tape, marked out two crimson stripes, one to the far left and the other a thin strip on the right. Brown paint was brushed evenly over the crimson up to the tape and then clarified with a knife to form a crisp burred edge. The crimson stripe was deepened in a similar manner, by masking off the brown paint with tape. However, the tape did not stick well to the partially dry oil paint and red brush strokes escaped beneath the tape onto the brown, leaving a flickering edge. Taking more brown paint, the artist re-defined the edge by cancelling the renegade strokes.

One year later, Barnett Newman altered the composition by adding a central red stripe. In preparation, the brown paint was rubbed down, in some places down to the cotton canvas, now apparent only through slight differences in texture. A red stripe was painted on top using the same technique as before. The new stripe is slightly glossier than the rest of the painting which exhibits subtle differences in sheen across the surface.

The painting is unvarnished. Originally the edges were probably covered by pale brown tape. The painting is unframed.

The painting is in good condition. Careful handling helps to protect the delicate surface while the use of a storage frame enables the painting to be protected when not on display.

Mary A. Bustin
July 1999