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Morris Louis (1912-1962)
Morris Louis (1912-1962)

Third Element

Morris Louis (1912-1962)
Third Element
acrylic on canvas
85¾ x 51 in. (207.5 x 129.5 cm.)
Painted in 1961
Park International, New York.
Lawrence Rubin, Paris.
André Emmerich Gallery, Inc., New York.
Acquired from the above by The Museum of Modern Art, Blanchette Rockefeller Fund, 1963.
An Invitation to See--125 Paintings from the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1975, p. 141 (illustrated in color).
Wolfe, Harper's Magazine, April 1975, p. 80 (illustrated).
J. Christoph, "Wohnen mit Kunst," Architektur & Wohnen, January 1976, pp. 86-95 (illustrated in color, p. 87).
D. Upright, Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, New York, 1985, p. 229, no. 458 (illustrated in color, p. 174).
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Paintings from The Museum of Modern Art, December 1963-March 1964, p. 96 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Recent Acquisitions: Seven American Paintings, November 1964-February 1965.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The 1960's: Painting and Sculpture from MoMA Collection, June-September 1967.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, The New American Painting: The First Generation, June-October 1969.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, American Art Since 1945: a loan exhibition from The Museum of Modern Art, September-October 1972.
Worcester Art Museum, MA; Toledo Museum of Art; Denver Art Museum; San Diego, Fine Arts Gallery; Dallas, Museum of Art; Omaha, Joslyn Art Museum; Greenville County Museum of Art, SC, and Richmond, Museum of Fine Arts, American Art Since 1945 from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art, October 1975-May 1977 (illustrated, p. 63, illustrated again in color, p. 11).
Tel Aviv Museum, American Art in the 20th Century, February-April 1980, no. 31.
The Brooklyn Museum, MoMA at Brooklyn, May-September 1980.
Bordeaux, Centre d'Arts Plastiques Contemporains, Depuis la couleur: Frankenthaler, Louis, Noland, Olitski, January-March 1981, p. 37 (illustrated).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art; Fort Worth Art Museum, and Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Morris Louis, October 1986-July 1987.
Munster, Westfalisches Landesmuseum and Musée de Grenoble, Morris Louis, May-December 1996.
Special notice

Tax exempt.

Lot Essay

*This lot may be exempt from sales Tax as set forth in the Sales Tax Notice at the back of the catalogue.

Louis's Third Element, executed in the last year of his life, gives evidence to the strength of his painting even when he was debilitated by lung cancer. As an example of the Stripes series, the present work is a dramatic picture of chromatic shifts, with hues ranging between brilliant yellow, orange, blue, red, and green. Although the blank areas of unprimed canvas on either side of the stripes are asymmetrical, because of the proportions of the width and height of the stripes, the overall effect of the painting is one of dynamic equilibrium. The vertical orientation of the picture alludes to the composition being rooted and the stripes subject to gravity. Yet unlike the accidental drips of the Abstract Expressionists, Louis's pours are controlled and masterful.

Clement Greenberg wrote in 1960 about Louis's transformation of the medium and support into an painterly image, "Louis spills his paint on unsized and unprimed cotton duck canvas, leaving the pigment almost everywhere thin enough for the eye to sense the threadedness and wovenness of the fabric underneath. But 'underneath' is the wrong word. The fabric being soaked in paint rather than merely covered by it, becomes paint in itself, like dyed cloth; the threadedness and woveness are in the color" (Cited in M. Fried, Morris Louis, New York, 1970, p. 23).


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