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Modern Paintings: 1950 - Present

Five rectangles, each in a single, saturated hue of canary yellow, watermelon pink, blood orange, bright white, or ink black, fit together to make a nearly square abstract painting. In rectangles of descending sizes, the yellow, pink, and orange shapes create a band across the top of the composition. The bottom three-quarters of the composition is made up of the white and black vertical rectangles. The white form takes up two-thirds of the left side, and is topped by the yellow shape. The black rectangle is narrower, and it fills in the space below the pink and orange forms above.

Ellsworth Kelly, American, born 1923, Tiger, 1953, oil on canvas (five joined panels), Gift of the Artist 1992.85.1

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The Disney cartoon characters, Donald Duck and Mickey Mouse, fish off a dock in this horizontal painting. The scene and characters are painted entirely flat areas of canary yellow, cobalt blue, tomato red, and white. To our left, Donald leans over the edge of the dock with his feet spread and duckbill hanging open. He has a white body outlined in blue, big eyes filled with a pattern of tiny blue dots, and yellow feet and duckbill. He wears a blue sailor’s hat and jacket with a red bow tie and yellow circles indicating buttons. He holds a fishing pole with an oval, red bobber near the fishhook high over his head. The pole has bent back with the fishhook snagged on the back hem of Donald’s jacket. A white speech bubble over Donald’s head is outlined in blue, and blue text inside reads, “LOOK MICKEY, I’VE HOOKED A BIG ONE!!” Mickey stands to our right, covering his smiling mouth with his left hand, on our right, and holding an upright fishing pole with the other hand. His round face is filled with a pattern of tiny red dots, and his curving hairline and ears are blue. He wears blue pants, a red shirt and shoes, and white gloves. The dock is mostly yellow with a white area on the right. Its planks and three white, round posts supporting it are outlined in blue. Rippling water surrounding the dock is defined by wavy lines and undulating bands of blue against a yellow background. The artist signed his initials in the lower left, “rfl.”

Roy Lichtenstein, American, 1923 - 1997, Look Mickey, 1961, oil on canvas, Gift of Roy and Dorothy Lichtenstein in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art 1990.41.1

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This vertical painting imitates the front page of a newspaper, with mostly black text in different sizes against a white background. The bottom two-thirds is dominated by a black and white photograph of a woman and three lines of a single, large headline. To our left, the narrow, vertical portrait shows a smiling woman looking off to our left from the corners of her eyes. She has prominent, arching eyebrows and wears a white, possibly fuzzy hat over dark hair. The background behind her is charcoal gray. The largest text on the page fills the space next to her, to our right. It reads, “A BOY FOR MEG” in slanted letters. Under her portrait is the caption, “See Page 3” in small text. Moving to the top third of the painting: at the top left is a square portrait showing just the face of a man wearing a fedora, done in sky and royal blue. The caption under the portrait reads, “In the Magazine.” The headline that runs next to it has white text against ocean blue, and it reads, “Sinatra and his ‘Rat Pack’ TODAY: The Leader Himself (Con’t).” In the horizontal zone beneath the blue banner and above the portrait and headline about Meg, the title of the newspaper is the “New York Post.” To the left, a box reads, “WEATHER Fog tonight. in the 60s. Tomorrow: cloudy and warm, chance of showers.” In a box under the newspaper name, it reads, “NEW YORK, FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1961 10 Cents.” A secondary headline, to our right, reads, “LATEST STOCK PRICES Pages 85-88.”

Andy Warhol, American, 1928 - 1987, A Boy for Meg, 1962, oil on canvas, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Burton Tremaine © 2011 The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York 1971.87.11

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Rectangles, scribbles, and smudges loosely cluster to create a band that runs from the bottom left corner to the top right against a parchment-white background in this horizontal, abstract work. The work was created with wax crayons, graphite, and house paint on canvas. Some of the shapes and smudges are royal blue, scarlet red, ochre yellow, or gray. Scribbles that suggest illegible writing fill some of the rectangles or is scrawled elsewhere in the composition. Handwritten numbers in blue, yellow, gray, or pumpkin orange are sprinkled throughout, including 2237, 26, 300, 1200, 28, and “17 x 400” near the upper right; 82, 28, 23, and 18 near the center; and 82, 2014, 300, 24, and 8 near the lower left. The largest number, “16490” is written in tall letters near the lower right corner.

Cy Twombly, American, 1928 - 2011, Untitled (Bolsena), 1969, oil-based house paint, wax crayon, and graphite on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee and Adriana and Robert Mnuchin 1995.73.1

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This painted canvas hangs on the wall loosely from four gathered peaks—one peak on each end to the left and right, and two peaks evenly spaced in between. The fabric is tightly wrapped with a leather cord into a fist-like form to create each peak, except for the right-most peak, where the fabric is knotted. The canvas is stained with large areas of soft color that largely meld together, with mostly pink, peach, and yellow to the left that transitions to violet, turquoise, and sky blue to the right. Hard-edged, vivid orange streaks break through the blues and greens to the right.

Sam Gilliam, American, born 1933, Relative, 1969, acrylic on canvas, Anonymous Gift 1994.39.1

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Philip Guston, American, born Canada, 1913 - 1980, Rug, 1976, oil on canvas, Gift of Edward R. Broida 2005.142.19

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A black silhouette of what appears to be a horse is centrally placed against a salmon-pink background in this horizontal painting. Facing our left in profile, the horse’s nose is cropped by the boundary of the painting. One rear leg is bent, and one front leg is straight. The other two legs, the tail, and mane are not represented. Two black diagonal perpendicular lines cross the painting, beginning and ending in the four corners to create an X. The lines converge with the silhouette of the horse. Irregular brush strokes are visible throughout.

Susan Rothenberg, American, born 1945, Butterfly, 1976, acrylic on canvas, Gift of Perry R. and Nancy Lee Bass 1995.6.1

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Frank Stella, American, born 1936, Sacramento Mall Proposal #4, 1978, acrylic on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee 1982.53.1

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Three casts of human hands and forearms hang from the top edge of the right half of this horizontal abstract painting, which is divided vertically in two equal parts. The rectangular field to the left is mottled with steel and charcoal gray streaked with white and amethyst purple. The panel to the right is divided again so the top half is slightly larger than the bottom half. The bottom portion is painted with a pattern to resemble abstracted wood grain in nickel and slate gray. A stylized white cloth, perhaps a handkerchief, is painted to look as if hanging from a nail hammered into the wood paneling, to our left. The top portion seems to be layered with paintings and prints below and beneath the three arms. The three-dimensional arms hang from looped metal wires on metal hooks spaced along the top edge, coming about a quarter of the way down the overall composition. The peach-colored arms and hands are painted all over with irregular gray patches, creating a camouflage effect. They hang down so the open palms are flat against the canvas, the thumbs extended to our left. The top of the arm to our left is painted cherry red, the middle is painted canary yellow, and the right arm royal blue. The paint drips down the arms and splatters on the hands and on the faux wood panel below. Behind the hands, it appears that one of the artist’s prints hangs from two nails on the canvas, but this is also part of the painting. The illusionistic  print has three horizontal bands of pine green, pumpkin orange, and violet purple crisscrossed with black lines. Seeming to hang behind it and under the right-most arm is a sheet of music overlapping another piece of paper printed with the letters “OHN C” and “THE PERILOUS.” Below, and filling the space between the illusionistic print and the wood panel, is a rectangular field of abstract gray and black swirling forms. The entire canvas is surrounded by a thin, amber-colored wood frame. A narrow wooden slat is attached with a hinge on the inner surface of the frame at the bottom right corner, so the slat runs up along and rests against the canvas near the rightmost edge of the frame. The artist signed the work with stenciled letters in pale gray in the lower right corner: “J. JOHNS ‘8.”

Jasper Johns, American, born 1930, Perilous Night, 1982, encaustic on canvas with objects, Collection of Robert and Jane Meyerhoff 1995.79.1

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Ed Ruscha, American, born 1937, I Think I'll..., 1983, oil on canvas, Gift of Marcia S. Weisman, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art 1990.126.1

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Terry Winters, American, born 1949, Bitumen, 1986, oil on linen, Richard S. Zeisler Fund 2008.35.1

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A person, outlined in black, lassos two puffy clouds with long ropes, all against an abstract patchwork of rectangles in the background of this horizontal painting. Many of the rectangles are cream white and others are muted tones of pink, beige, tan, and blue. Some darker sage-green, violet, and brick-red rectangles are scattered across the bottom of the composition. A narrow band across the top of the painting is made up of triangles in pale blues, yellows, and pinks. The person is drawn with thin black lines and superimposed over the background. This person stands on the right side of the canvas facing our left, almost in profile. His feet are widely planted and his knees bent. His mouth is wide open, and his curly, shoulder-length hair hides his eyes. He wears a floppy cap on the back of his head. His costume has long sleeves underneath a jerkin-style jacket and loose, knee-length pants. A dagger hangs off his belt on his right hip, and a small pouch hangs near his left hip. His arms extend straight out in front of his body, with a thick, twisted rope wrapped around each forearm. He pulls the ropes taut to catch clouds in the upper center and lower left. A few wisps of clouds fill the upper left corner. A small sailboat floats near the center of the composition on a horizon line that bisects the canvas. Near the boat, swirls and streaks of sky and navy blue, crimson red, and sunflower yellow funnel from a wide base along the left edge of the canvas to a narrow band across the center.

Sigmar Polke, German, 1941 - 2010, Hope is: Wanting to Pull Clouds, 1992, polyester resin and acrylic on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee 1993.59.1

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Streaks of vibrant lemon yellow, plum purple, cobalt blue, spring and mint green, cotton candy pink, and crimson red are layered and blended in loose columns in this vertical abstract painting. The artist created this by pulling a long squeegee—as tall as this canvas—across from our left to right to smear and expose layers of paint. Vertical bands of contrasting color suggest that the squeegee was paused or pressed down at intervals. For instance, in a field dominated by bright yellow on the right half of the composition, one vertical band exposes underlayers of bubblegum pink and azure blue. The left half of the painting is mostly blues, greens, and purples, with touches of the same yellow that covers much of the right half. Separating the two halves, a wide streak with slate blue, turquoise, plum purple, white, and yellow blend in some areas to almost make brown.

Gerhard Richter, German, born 1932, Abstract Painting 780-1, 1992, oil on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee 1993.62.1

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Elizabeth Murray, American, 1940 - 2007, Careless Love, 1995-1996, oil on shaped canvas, The Aaron I. Fleischman Fund 1996.28.1

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Jenny Holzer, American, born 1950, DODDOACID, 2007, oil on linen, Gift of the Artist © Jenny Holzer 2010.78.6

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Sean Scully, American, born Ireland, 1945, ONEONEZERONINE RED, 2009, oil on linen, Gift of Alan and Ellen Meckler 2009.125.1

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Four people with black skin are squeezed into a narrow boat on bright, turquoise-colored water that nearly fills this stylized, square painting. All four sides of the unstretched canvas are lined with six gromets spaced along each edge. The boat approaches a carnival-like tunnel near the upper right corner. Cartoon ghosts loom at the tunnel entrance and a translucent, veil-like ghost hovers over the left half of the painting. The horizon comes almost to the top of the canvas, where white clouds float against an azure-blue sky. A long, lemon-yellow line curls back and forth in a tight, curving zigzag pattern that widens out from a tiny sun setting on the horizon. A red cross on a white field floats near the upper left. At the top center, the word “WOW” appears in white letters within a crimson-red, bursting speech bubble with long trailing tendrils, like an exploded firework. Below the boat and against the water to our right, the word “FUN” has been overlaid with a white square so the tall, white letters are barely visible. The words “GREAT AMERICA” appear in a curling banner across the bottom half of the painting.

Kerry James Marshall, American, born 1955, Great America, 1994, acrylic and collage on canvas, Gift of the Collectors Committee 2011.20.1

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