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Chartres, 1969, by Barnett Newman

Chartres, 1969, by Barnett Newman. Photography by Bruce White. Courtesy of the Barnett Newman Foundation.


Barnett Newman

March 24–July 7, 2002

Barnett Newman (1905–1970) was one of the most profound and influential painters of the 20th century. A master of expansive spatial effects and richly evocative color, he pioneered an art that was both uncompromisingly abstract and powerfully emotive. This retrospective exhibition assembles more than 100 works not seen together in over 30 years. It traces the dramatic shifts in Newman’s practice from his Surrealist-inspired drawings of the 1940s, through his development of the trademark vertical stripe he would dub “the zip,“ and finally to the groundbreaking shaped canvases he produced in his last years.

Despite the apparent simplicity of his signature motif, “the zip,“ Newman’s art is a richly complicated one. The exhibition explores the full breadth of his achievements, including such masterpieces as his “breakthrough painting“ Onement I of 1948, the series Stations of the Cross (1958–1966), and the monumental sculpture Broken Obelisk (1967). The National Gallery of Art, the Menil Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art, each numbering among the few museums where Newman’s work is concentrated, have given key loans.

“This exhibition gives the public an opportunity to encounter in depth the work of one of the greatest artists of our time, and will launch the next era of Newman scholarship,“ said Ann Temkin, the museum’s Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “At the turn of the millennium, no member of his generation remains more significant than Barnett Newman, and we are proud to be presenting a comprehensive view of this remarkable artist's life’s work.“

  • Philadelphia Museum of Art: March 24–July 7, 2002
  • Tate Modern, London: September 19, 2002–January 5, 2003

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About the Artist

Born in 1905 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents, Newman was a lifelong New Yorker who studied at the Art Students League and the City College of New York. A close friend of the artists Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, and Jackson Pollock, Newman was at the center of the New York art scene just as Abstract Expressionism was ascending to prominence in the early 1950s. In spite of the important role he played during the formative years of the New York School, Newman achieved recognition for his own work only late in his career, after decades of struggle. In the 1960s he served as an unofficial father figure to the emerging generation of minimalist and conceptual artists.


The exhibition is made possible by:

Additional funding was provided by generous grants from The Dietrich Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Endowment for the Arts, Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman, Mr. and Mrs. David Pincus, and other generous individuals.

The exhibition was organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Tate Modern, London, with the generous support of The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc., The Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation, and the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative.


Ann Temkin, Muriel and Philip Berman Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art

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