Studio Sunday: Barnett Newman

A photograph of Barnett Newman in his studio


This Sunday, let’s step inside the studio of Barnett Newman. Newman is best known as a major artist of the American abstract expressionism movement, and one of the first artists to delve into color fields as a style of painting. Newman’s works are mostly vast in size, with the entire canvas often covered in a single color of paint, occasionally broken up by vertical lines that the artist called “zips.”


I really enjoy this photo of Newman in his studio because the nature of the space seems to reflect the simplicity of his paintings. This photo might have been taken earlier in the artist’s career, before he began working on the monumental, room sized paintings that he is known for. The artist himself cuts an imposing, yet oddly friendly figure in the photograph, and I love the aesthetic of the smoke spiraling away from Newman’s face. He’s very much posed to reflect the brooding, masculine figure that was so heavily associated with the rock-star artists of his time.


Aside from the few paintings leaning on the wall and Newman himself sitting contemplatively, this studio space seems quite clean and simple. It reminds me a bit of the brick-walled space of On Kawara, whose work came a little after Newman’s but who likewise worked in an urban, New York City studio. I wonder what the view was like from the window pictured to Newman’s left, here.


Barnett Newman died in 1970 at the age of 65. His work is considered to have been ahead of its time, and Newman was widely underappreciated as an artist during his lifetime. However, he proved to be an important influence to artists such as Donald Judd and Frank Stella.

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Written by: Dallas Jeffs
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