American painter and printmaker. He studied at Boston University School of Fine and Applied Arts, receiving his BFA in 1961, and from 1961 to 1963 at Yale University School of Art and Architecture in New Haven, CT. Settling in New York in 1963, in the following year he produced his first single-panel monochromatic paintings, such as Decorative Painting (1964; priv. col., see 1975 exh. cat., pl. 1), through which he contributed to the emerging aesthetic of Minimalism. In such works he reacted against the dominance of gestural techniques in second generation Abstract Expressionism by emphasizing the subtlety of surface and colour within the spatial and structural limits of the rectangle. Bringing together the painterly quality of Abstract Expressionism with the intellectual rigours of Minimalism, Marden achieved a balance between emotional intensity and formal simplicity.
In his early paintings Marden left a bare narrow margin at the bottom edge of the thickly worked surface of oil mixed with wax to allow the observer to be witness to the process. In later works such as Winter Painting (3 panels, 1.83×3.05 m overall, 1973–5; Amsterdam, Stedel. Mus.) he developed subtle colour combinations by joining together panels of a single colour in either vertical or horizontal formats. From 1975, when he began making annual visits to Greece, he took inspiration from the light and colour of its landscape and also made reference to mythology in his choice of titles, as in Thira (16 panels, 2.44×4.57 m overall, 1979–80; Paris, Pompidou). After preparing designs for stained-glass windows for Basle Cathedral in 1977, a commission that occupied him until 1985, he became interested in expressing in his paintings the conditions of colour and light in architecture. He also began to allude to traditional themes, for example in Humilatio (1978; Cologne, Mus. Ludwig), one of a series of five paintings, each on four panels, expressing different spiritual or emotional states—disquiet, reflection, inquiry, submission and merit—through colour and form.
After producing a series of 25 etchings, Etchings to Rexroth (1985–7), in which he made reference to Chinese ideograms, he introduced a network of meandering lines into his paintings. These works (see 1988 exh. cat.), for which monochrome panels now acted as background colour fields, provided a dramatic departure from his previous style, but they continued to stress the importance of touch, surface, colour and tone.
Pauline I. A. Bullard
From Grove Art Online
© 2009 Oxford University Press