Painted in 1963, Morningstar represents one of the first iterations of Ernst Wilhelm Nay’s famous Augen-Bilder. Beginning in 1963, the Augen cycle characterises a turning point in the artist’s practice, when he definitively left his early figurative style, inherited from German Expressionism, and begun combining the circular symbol with crossing lines to create eye forms. The gestural brushstrokes which superimpose vivid colour planes, deep purple with shimmering azure, ethereal light blue with iridescent white, make Morningstar an energetic and hypnotic composition. The artist described his method: ‘If I set a coloured dot on an empty surface, an astonishing number of tensions were created. If I spread out the dot, the tensions increased. A second such disc, a third, a fourth - all the same size, already created a highly complicated formal relation. A number of colours also emerged, if I made each disc a different colour. They could be regarded as a chromatic sequence. The spaces between created forms and these could be developed quite mechanically with the same colours in a specific alternation, creating a corrugated surface so that interlinking resulted… This way of
experimenting with a pictorial whole enabled endless variations’ (E. W. Nay, quoted in Nay Retrospektive, exh. cat., Josef Haubrich Kunsthalle, Cologne, 1991, p. 36).
Gifted by the artist to Harry A. Brooks, this work has proudly resided in his collection for five decades. Brooks served in the US Army during the Second World War, when he was awarded the Bronze Star and Army Commendation
Ribbon, before embarking on a long and distinguished career in the New York art world, first as an art dealer, then joining E. Coe Kerr Gallery in New York, before moving to Knoedler & Co., where he worked for 21 years. In 1968 Brooks joined Wildenstein & Co. as Vice President and later President, before retiring in 1990. A graduate from Princeton University, he served on the Board of Directors at the University’s Art Museum, as well as at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn, NY.