"My whole intention in painting is to make a thing poetical; but not poetical in a literary sense. I want something that evokes mood, a background, a stage set for certain characters that are playing certain parts. When I paint, I do not consider myself an abstractionist in the sense that I'm trying to create beautiful forms that fit together like a puzzle. The things in my painting are intended to strike something that is an emotional involvement -that has to do with the human personality and all the mysteries of life, not simply colors or abstract balances. To me, it's all reality" (W. Baziotes quoted in William Baziotes: A Memorial Exhibition, exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1965, p. 42).
William Baziotes was one of the so-called "Mythmakers": a group of artists comprising Baziotes, Pollock, Rothko and Gottlieb, all of whom were included in an important exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1947 called "The Ideographic Picture." The unifying theme of the show was the artists' understanding of Surrealist art and automatism; the anthropologically-based psychology of Jung, with its implications of a common cultural heritage of images; and their reaction against the allegorical themes favored by Ben Shahn and other realists in favor of symbolic, mytho-poetic abstractions.
Baziotes' endeavors came in the context of a culture finding a new set of criteria for the rules of society after the horrors of war. For Baziotes and his colleagues, the primitive, the mythic and the symbolic seemed to have a power well beyond the explanations their modern, material culture offered. While the subject of their work unified them as a group, their paintings diverged widely in style, from the heavily impastoed surfaces of Pollock's paintings of the mid-1940s to Gottlieb's partitioned Pictographs to the almost watercolor-like, delicate abstractions that Baziotes created from the mid-1940s until his death in 1963.
In Eclipse, a masterful example of Baziotes' mature style, a soft, radiant moonlight suffuses an undefined blue landscape. Two large yellow orbs hang in the night sky, one partially obscured by the shadow of the other. Baziotes employs these simple forms to capture the mystery inherent within the moment of an eclipse, and the wonder one feels when witnessing the movement of planets in the sky. A languid grey form emanates from a smaller orb in the sky and descends through the background to the foreground. This hovering form, however ethereal, adds a human presence to the otherwise open landscape because it inhabits both ground and sky. We become subsumed into the misty, mythic world Baziotes has created for us, a world that exists only in the moment of an eclipse, a moment unbounded by man's control.