Couplet IV is the last in a series of four works named for a pair of successive lines of verse that rhyme and are the same length. The painting illustrates Marden's enduring relationship with painting, maintained while his contemporaries abandoned the medium and began to question its agency. Marden has declared painting his chosen "method" or "path" and has said, "To me, one of the most compelling aspects of modernism is its commitment to constant striving, to improve on what was there before." This painting marks a departure from the style of the artist's early monochromatic works and conveys his desire to achieve perfection through his craft. Of the large size of the works in this series, Marden has said, "I chose the nine–foot height because I wanted something on a grander scale, something specifically less human in scale."
The elegant lines of Couplet IV unfold in an overlapping, intertwining web that cannot be untangled. The inseparable network of layered, muted colors imparts a sense of depth, and the work achieves balance and harmony through the lyrical application of paint. Couplet IV suggests Marden's admiration for Paul Cézanne and Jackson Pollock and his interest in calligraphy.
Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights since 1980, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2007, p. 101.