Barnett Newman



On loan

Museum Barberini (Potsdam, Germany): The Shape of Freedom: International Abstraction after 1945

Barnett Newman 1905–1970
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2440 × 1721 × 50 mm
Purchased 1980

Display caption

The vast expanse of unmodulated red paint in this work is both absorbing and disorienting. It is interrupted by a single, narrow band of purple running the length of the right-hand edge. This 'zip' generates a tension throughout the canvas between presence and blankness, solidity and fragility. Its verticality also echoes the position of the viewer, helping to fulfil Newman's concern that 'the onlooker in front of my painting knows that he's there'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

T03081 EVE 1950

Inscribed ‘↑EVE/Barnett Newman 1950’ on back of canvas, and ‘TOP↑’ on top fold-over of canvas
Oil on canvas, 94 × 67 3/4 (244 × 172.1)
Purchased from E.J.Power (Grant-in-Aid) 1980
Prov: E.J. Power, London (purchased from the artist through David Gibbs, London, 1960)
Exh: Barnett Newman, Betty Parsons Gallery, New York, April–May 1951 (no catalogue); Barnett Newman: First Retrospective Exhibition, Bennington College, Bennington, Vermont, May 1958 (6); Barnett Newman: A Selection 1946–52, French & Co., New York, March–April 1959 (23); Barnett Newman, Tate Gallery, June–August 1972 (not in catalogue, repr.p.49)
Lit: Thomas B. Hess, Barnett Newman, New York 1971, pp.76, 78, 109, repr.p.78; Harold Rosenberg, Barnett Newman, New York 1978, pp.52, 67, in colour

The last two paintings that Newman completed before his second one-man exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in April–May 1951 were this one and a painting called ‘Adam’. At that time ‘Adam’ only had two stripes, but Newman added a further, third stripe down the left centre a year later and it is now inscribed with the double date 1951 + 1952. ‘Adam’ was bought by the Tate from the American collector Ben Heller in 1968; ‘Eve’ now rejoins it.

'Adam’ is slightly wider as well as quite different in colour, and the two pictures do not have much in common except that both have bands at the sides. Nevertheless Mrs Newman states: ‘I think he thought of them as a pair because he worked on the first painting and then on the second continuously until they were finished and then named them “Adam” and “Eve”’ (letter of 6 April 1983).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984


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