Jul 19, 2004



c. 1944

Adolph Gottlieb

(American, 1903–1974)


Sheet: 22 x 26.8 cm (8 11/16 x 10 9/16 in.); Platemark: 20.2 x 25.1 cm (7 15/16 x 9 7/8 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1998.109

Catalogue raisonné: Associated American Artists, no. 16

Impression: 8



From 1935 Gottlieb collected African, Oceanic, and Pre-Columbian sculpture in which he found a spiritual power and vitality lacking in contemporary Western art. By the early 1940s Gottlieb had developed his own pictographs---simple depictions of objects or shapes filling the compartments of a flat grid. Based on a range of sources, including Egyptian hieroglyphs, Native American and African Art, European modernism, and the work of Pablo Picasso, the images purposely have no definitive meanings so that each viewer can interpret them differently.

The random juxtaposition of diverse signs reflects Gottlieb's experimentation with two techniques the Surrealists introduced in the late 1930s, automatic drawing and free association. He sought to bypass the depiction of observed reality and to discover deeper layers of experience. Gottlieb wrote: "I would free associate, putting whatever came to my mind very freely within the different rectangles...There would be very little editing or revision."

See also
PR - Etching
Type of artwork: 

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