Agnes Martin The Tree 1964

  • Not on view

Martin once said, “I hope I have made it clear that the work is about perfection as we are aware of it in our mind but that the paintings are very far from being perfect . . .” Close examination of the surface reveals subtle tension between the grid’s regularity and the wavering of Martin’s drawn lines. She created this six-foot-square canvas while standing, and used a metal ruler to guide her hand. Though the painting is titled The Tree, she remarked years later that her paintings are “not really about nature. It is not what is seen—it is what is known forever in the mind.”

Gallery label from "Collection: 1940s—1970s", 2019
Additional text

Of the genesis of her paintings, Martin said, "When I first made a grid I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees and then this grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it and then I was satisfied. I thought, this is my vision." Martin rendered fine vertical lines and lightly shaded horizontal bands in oil and pencil, softening the geometric grid, which in this case seems to expand beyond the confines of the canvas. For Martin the grid evoked not a human measure but an ethereal onethe boundless order or transcendent reality associated with Eastern philosophies.

Gallery label from Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 19 - August 13, 2017.
Oil and pencil on canvas
6 x 6' (182.8 x 182.8 cm)
Larry Aldrich Foundation Fund
Object number
© 2024 Estate of Agnes Martin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

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