Susan Rothenberg

Four Green Lines


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Susan Rothenberg 1945 – 2020
Lithograph on paper
Image: 558 × 761 mm
Purchased 1984

Catalogue entry

Susan Rothenberg born 1945

P77057 Four Green Lines 1984

Lithograph 558 x 761 (22 x 30) on Arches paper 783 x 890 (30 7/8 x 35); plate mark 558 x 761 (22 x 30); printed by Bill Goldston and Keith Brintzenhofe at Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, Long Island and published by Universal Limited Art Editions in an edition of 30
Inscribed ‘S Rothenberg 1984' b.r. of image and ‘28/30' b.l. of image; printer's and publisher's stamp b.l.
Purchased from Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, Long Island (Grant-in-Aid) 1984
Lit: Jeremy Lewison, ‘Form and Expression in Susan Rothenberg's Prints' in Rachel Robertson Maxwell, Susan Rothenberg, The Prints, Philadelphia 1987, pp.10 and 14, repr. p.65 no.18 (col.); Keith Brintzenhofe, ‘The Experimental Spirit: SR at ULAE', in Maxwell 1987, p.25. Also repr: Susan Rothenberg Prints 1977-1984, exh. cat., Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston 1984, [p.19] no.16; Face To Face: A Survey Of Artists' Prints, exh. cat., National Gallery, Wellington 1986, p.99

The following entry is based on conversations between the artist and the compiler on 5 October 1987 and 8 October 1987 and a conversation between Bill Goldston, Director of ULAE, and the compiler on 6 October 1987. Tape recordings of these conversations are held by the archive.

P77057, Rothenberg's sixth lithograph, was the second to be made by the artist at ULAE, the first being ‘Plug' 1983 (repr. Maxwell 1987, no.17). The image consists of three bone-like configurations suggestive of the head, torso and legs of a leaping figure, set against a vaguely defined area of land and water. The lithograph is drawn to the edge of the stone whose rectangularity is mitigated by the rough edge of the bottom right hand corner where the stone had been chipped prior to use.

The stone was originally blackened by the artist using charcoal specially impregnated with oleic acid which would leave traces of grease on the stone. According to Goldston this ‘gave her the freedom to just make marks' without encountering too much resistance from the stone. Having applied a density of black marks the artist began to erase them with acid and eraser, thereby admitting light and suggesting form. The actual limb-like forms, however, were applied in an additive mode.

Rothenberg first began to depict bone images in 1978 after a period of portraying the external appearance of horses in profile, often bisected by diagonal or vertical lines. The artist stated that she became tired of the formal geometry of her earlier paintings and prints and the bones were ‘an organic, semi-conscious way of dropping the geometry, which began to seem false ... The bones were not so much psychological as a way of getting hard in with the soft, something tense to hold the softness' (quoted in Lewison 1987, p.10). The contrast between hard and soft is a recurring theme in Rothenberg's work. According to Lewison the ‘transition from depicting the external appearance of the horse ... to the portrayal of skeletal, torsoless limbs parallels the change from an art of understatement to one of greater emotional intensity' (p.10) and, it might be added, of greater autobiographical involvement.

The print is titled after the three vertical and one diagonal green lines on the right hand side of the image. These were added in the final stages of proofing because the artist considered that she ‘needed colour [but not] much colour and it was a tentative gesture and it just kicked in perfectly.' She recollects that it was Bill Goldston who suggested that the print required a touch of colour.

Rothenberg was first invited to make lithographs at ULAE after Bill Goldston had seen her work at the Whitney Biennal in February 1983. He was particularly impressed by a painting entitled ‘The Creek' 1981-2 (repr. Susan Rothenberg, Recent Paintings, exh. cat., Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam 1982, [p.25] no.18). He considers that P77057 ‘came incredibly close to having a similar feeling as "The Creek" did'. The print and the painting both comprise atmospheric markings out of which emerge light and form. Both also depict water.

This entry has been approved by Bill Goldston on behalf of the artist.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.452-3


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