NYC - MoMA: Barnett Newman's Vir Heroicus Sublimis
Vir Heroicus Sublimus, 1950-51
1950-51. Oil on canvas, 7' 11 3/8" x 17' 9 1/4" (242.2 x 541.7 cm).
Barnett Newman. (American, 1905-1970).
The Latin title of this painting can be translated as "Man, heroic and sublime." It refers to Newman's essay "The Sublime is Now," in which he asks, "If we are living in a time without a legend that can be called sublime, how can we be creating sublime art?" His response is embodied in part by this painting--his largest ever at the time. Newman hoped the viewer would stand close to his expansive work, and he likened the experience to a human encounter.
Its size creates an engulfing environment--a vast red field, broken by five thin vertical stripes.Newman admired Alberto Giacometti's bone-thin sculptures of the human figure, and his stripes, or "zips," as he called them, may be seen as symbolizing figures against a void. Here they vary in width, color, and firmness of edge: the white zip at center left, for example, looks almost like the gap between separate planes, while the maroon zip to its right seems to recede slightly into the red. These subtly differentiated verticals create a division of the canvas that is surprisingly complex, and asymmetrical; right in the middle of the picture, however, they set off a perfect square.
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller.
The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) was founded in 1929 and is often recognized as the most influential museum of modern art in the world. Over the course of the next ten years, the Museum moved three times into progressively larger temporary quarters, and in 1939 finally opened the doors of its midtown home, located on 53rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues in midtown.
MoMA's holdings include more than 150,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, architectural models and drawings, and design objects. Highlights of the collection inlcude Vincent Van Gogh's The Starry Night, Salvador Dali's The Persisence of Memory, Pablo Picasso's Les Demoiseels d'Avignon and Three Musicians, Claude Monet's Water Lilies, Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie Woogie, Paul Gauguin's The Seed of the Areoi, Henri Matisse's Dance, Marc Chagall's I and the Village, Paul Cezanne's The Bather, Jackson Pollack's Number 31, 1950, and Andy Warhol's Campbell's Soup Cans. MoMA also owns approximately 22,000 films and four million film stills, and MoMA's Library and Archives, the premier research facilities of their kind in the world, hold over 300,000 books, artist books, and periodicals, and extensive individual files on more than 70,000 artists.