Barnett Newman

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Newman, Barnett

Newman, Barnett, 1905–70, American artist, b. New York City. A member of the New York school, Newman was one of the first to reject conventional notions of spatial composition in art. Often using monumental scale, he took abstraction to its farther reaches. In his severe Stations of the Cross series (1958–66), he divided raw canvas vertically at intervals by black or white bands of various widths. In other paintings (e.g., Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue IV?, 1969–70) Newman used large areas of saturated, sometimes primary color punctuated by narrow vertical bands of other colors that he called “zips” as the source of visual and emotional impact. Newman became known as a major painter in the last decade of his life, and his work was an important influence on the practitioners of color-field painting. He also created a number of monumental abstract sculptures.


See study by T. B. Hess (1971).

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Newman, Barnett

(1905–70) painter, sculptor; born in New York City. He studied at the Art Students League (1922–26), and joined his father's clothing manufacturing business (1927–37). He lived in New York City, and by 1944 began his series of cosmic landscapes using stripes, circles, and color divisions, as seen in Genetic Moment (1947). He was one of the founders, along with William Baziotes, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, of an art school, Subjects of the Artist, New York (1947). A leader of color-field painting, as seen in Onement I (1948), he stressed the use of color and mythology. His sculptures have a classical composure, as in Broken Obelisk (1967).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.