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Clyfford Still Artworks

American Painter

Clyfford Still Photo

Born: November 30, 1904 - Grandin, North Dakota

Died: June 23, 1980 - Baltimore, Maryland

Artworks by Clyfford Still

The below artworks are the most important by Clyfford Still - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Untitled(Indian Houses, Nespelem) (1936)

Untitled (Indian Houses, Nespelem) is characteristic of the artist's work from the late 1920s to mid-1930s. It was executed in the town of Nespelem, on the Coleville Indian Reservation, where Still co-founded an artist's colony in 1937. In this work, Still synthesizes the influences of Gustave Courbet, Paul Cézanne, and American Regionalism, while also beginning to formulate his own individual artistic philosophy and style.

Untitled (c.1935)

An amalgam of body and landscape, Untitled is emblematic of the influence of Surrealism on Still's work of the mid-1930s. It also shows the development of a personal iconography and hints at the artist's lifelong interests in mythology, Native American shamanism, and totemic motifs. Art historian David Anfam has described the picture as a contradictory one, the grim-faced head suggesting sterility, whilst its apparent position, high above a landscape, evokes the soaring spirit.

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1944-N No.2 (also known as 'Red Flash on Black Field') (1944)

1944-N No.2 marks an essential turning point in Still's progression to completely non-representational painting. Along with its purely abstract subject matter, it also exhibits several other devices which he would employ throughout his career: a dynamic relationship between vertical and horizontal forms; a predominantly dark palette highlighted by areas of bright color; a highly textured surface resulting from the use of a palette knife; and the adoption of a non-referential naming system composed of numbers and dates. 1944-N No.2 is also notable in being one of the few replicas that Still produced throughout his career. Although Abstract Expressionists often produced pictures in series which were very similar in composition, their conception of the painterly act as an event, as an expression of emotion, discouraged them from producing replicas. Nevertheless, Still appears to have seen both this picture and its pair, 1944-N No.1, as identical in character and quality.

1948-C (1948)

1948-C (1948)

1948-C serves as a perfect example of Still's mature style as it appeared in the mid to late 1940s: figuration has disappeared entirely, to be replaced by nothing but a strange, crackling field of color. The work features characteristically dramatic relationships between compositional elements - foreground and background; light and dark - relationships that the artist thought of as "life and death merging in fearful union." It is also characteristic of Still's work from the late 1940s in being dominated by colors drawn from a palette at the extreme end of the spectrum - here, hot yellows.

1957-D-No. 1 (1957)

1957-D-No. 1 (1957)

Still began to move towards more vertically oriented canvases in the mid-1950s, a shift that is evident in 1957-D-No. 1. In this work, the fleeting flashes of color that interrupted the dark expanses of earlier paintings are now monumentally scaled vertical forms that rise and fall across an almost mural-like composition. Art historian David Anfam has observed how Still was drawn to compositions which evoke "enclosure and liberation, containment and precarious release;" here the dramatic tension of yellow and black suggests exactly that contrast.

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Untitled (1974)

This work is a late-period piece typical of Still's output after his 1961 move to rural Maryland. It features a markedly lighter color palette than his earlier paintings, though it retains the sense of a loose, grid-like structure underlying the abstract motifs, a characteristic evident in some of this earlier work. The work is also notable for the large amounts of bare canvas that Still allowed to remain visible on the surface of the painting.

Related Artists and Major Works

Mont Sainte-Victoire (c.1905)

Mont Sainte-Victoire (c.1905)

Artist: Paul Cézanne (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

This is one of the last landscapes of Mont Sainte-Victoire, favored by Cézanne at the end of his life. The view is rendered in what is essentially an abstract vocabulary. Rocks and trees are suggested by mere daubs of paint as opposed to being extensively depicted. The overall composition itself, however, is clearly representational and also follows in the ethos of Japanese prints. The looming mountain is reminiscent of a puzzle of various hues, assembled into a recognizable object. This and other such late works of Cézanne proved to be of a paramount importance to the emerging modernists, who sought to liberate themselves from the rigid tradition of pictorial depiction.

In Cézanne's mature work, the colors and forms possessed equal pictorial weight. The primary means of constructing the new perspective included the juxtaposition of cool and warm colors as well as the bold overlapping of forms. The light was no longer an "outsider" in relation to depicted objects; rather light emanated from within. Instead of the illusion, he searched for the essence. Instead of the three-dimensional artifice, he longed for the two-dimensional truth.

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (1907)

Artist: Pablo Picasso (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

This painting was shocking even to Picasso's closest artist friends both for its content and its execution. The subject matter of nude women was not in itself unusual, but the fact that Picasso painted the women as prostitutes in aggressively sexual postures was novel. Picasso's studies of Iberian and tribal art is most evident in the faces of three of the women, which are rendered as mask-like, suggesting that their sexuality is not just aggressive, but also primitive. Picasso also went further with his spatial experiments by abandoning the Renaissance illusion of three-dimensionality, instead presenting a radically flattened picture plane that is broken up into geometric shards, something Picasso borrowed in part from Paul Cézanne's brushwork. For instance, the leg of the woman on the left is painted as if seen from several points of view simultaneously; it is difficult to distinguish the leg from the negative space around it making it appear as if the two are both in the foreground.

The painting was widely thought to be immoral when it was finally exhibited in public in 1916. Braque is one of the few artists who studied it intently in 1907, leading directly to his Cubist collaborations with Picasso. Because Les Demoiselles predicted some of the characteristics of Cubism, the work is considered proto or pre Cubism.

Onement I (1948)

Artist: Barnett Newman (Read Full Artist Overview, Biography, and Artworks pages)

Newman saw Onement I as a breakthrough in his work. It features the first full incarnation of what he later called a "zip," a vertical band of color. This motif would play a central role in many of his subsequent paintings. The painting's title is an archaic derivation of the word "atonement," meaning, "the state of being made into one." For Newman, this unevenly painted zip on a flat field of color does not divide the canvas; rather, it merges both sides, drawing in the audience to intensely experience the work both physically and emotionally. Some have compared the zips to Alberto Giacometti's slender figures, reinforcing Newman's own connections between his paintings and the viewer's body.

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