Oil on canvas
25 x 30 inches 63.5 x 76 cm)
Framed: 30 ½ x 35 ½ inches (77.5 x 90 cm)
Signed: GOTTLIEB, titled and dated 1956 (on verso)
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York
André Emmerich, New York
Private Collection, Chicago (acquired from the above)
Christie’s, New York, 23 September 2003, lot 11
Hollis Taggart Galleries, Chicago
Catherine Epstein (acquired March 2004)
Adolph Gottlieb, a prominent figure in the mid-20th century New York School of artists, was a trailblazing American painter known for his significant contributions to the development of abstract art, particularly within the Abstract Expressionist movement. His life and career are a testament to his commitment to pushing the boundaries of artistic expression.
Born on March 14, 1903, in New York City, Adolph Gottlieb’s early life was marked by a budding passion for art. He nurtured this interest by enrolling at the Art Students League in New York, where he had the privilege of studying under John Sloan, a renowned American modernist artist. These formative years laid the foundation for his artistic journey.
In the 1930s, Gottlieb emerged as one of the co-founders of a group of artists known as “The Ten.” This group was committed to promoting abstraction in American art, setting the stage for the radical artistic developments that were to follow. However, his early work was still tinged with the influence of Surrealism and European Modernism.
Gottlieb’s career took a significant turn in the late 1940s when he, alongside fellow artists Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, began to develop a style that would later become known as Abstract Expressionism. This movement sought to express raw emotion and the human condition through abstract forms and bold use of color. This artistic breakthrough marked a transformative period in Gottlieb’s life.
One of the most notable aspects of Adolph Gottlieb’s work is his creation of two iconic series: “Pictographs” and “Burst.” The “Pictographs” are characterized by simple, iconic forms, often resembling symbols or hieroglyphs. These paintings are a visual exploration of archetypal symbols and have a primal, almost mystical quality to them. In contrast, the “Burst” series, created in the 1950s, is characterized by circular forms at the center of the canvas, often surrounded by other abstract shapes. These works exude a sense of energy and explosion, capturing the essence of the human experience.
The “Burst” series is particularly symbolic of Gottlieb’s ability to convey complex emotions through the interplay of simple shapes and vibrant colors. These paintings have an undeniable presence and continue to be celebrated for their visual impact and emotional resonance.
Throughout his career, Gottlieb continued to produce abstract art, holding numerous solo exhibitions and retrospectives. He was also a founding member of “The Club,” an organization of Abstract Expressionist artists who gathered to discuss art, exchange ideas, and foster creativity. His work, with its emotional depth and powerful use of color and form, has been exhibited in major museums and galleries worldwide.
Adolph Gottlieb’s legacy endures in the world of abstract art. His pioneering contributions to the Abstract Expressionist movement, as exemplified by the “Burst” series, continue to influence contemporary artists and captivate art enthusiasts. His work stands as a testament to the power of abstract art to convey profound emotions and the complexities of the human experience. Adolph Gottlieb’s artistic journey remains an enduring chapter in the rich tapestry of American art history.