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The Processes and Materials of Abstract Expressionist Painting

Discover the innovative tecniques of Abstract Expressionist painters


The Voice

Barnett Newman
(American, 1905–1970)

1950. Egg tempera and enamel on canvas, 8' 1/8" x 8' 9 1/2" (244.1 x 268 cm)

The Voice is ethereal, its surface nearly blank. Newman deftly used paradox in titling this work, since it is one of his quietest. It consists of a white field of enamel paint—applied so evenly that the only hint of texture comes from the weave of the canvas itself—interrupted at its right edge by a slim, slightly darker white vertical stripe (or “zip,” as the artist called it) rendered with stiffly textured egg tempera. When he made The Voice, Newman was increasing the size of his canvases and reducing the visibility of his brushwork. While his New York School peers Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning foregrounded their gestures, Newman often sought to remove all trace of his hand. This resulted in paintings with mute surfaces, whose monumental scale enveloped viewers in open expanses of color. These qualities prompted critics to dub Newman a Color Field painter and artists associated with Minimalism to find inspiration in his work.

One who applies paint to canvas, wood, paper, or another support to produce a picture.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

The manner in which a painter applies paint with a brush.

A painting medium in which colored pigment is mixed with a water-soluble binder, such as egg yolk; a painting done in this medium.

A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

The ratio between the size of an object and its model or representation, as in the scale of a map to the actual geography it represents.

A primarily American artistic movement of the 1960s, characterized by simple geometric forms devoid of representational content. Relying on industrial technologies and rational processes, Minimalist artists challenged traditional notions of craftsmanship, using commercial materials such as fiberglass and aluminum, and often employing mathematical systems to determine the composition of their works.

A category of artistic practice having a particular form, content, or technique.

A type of paint made from very fine pigments and resin that form a glossy surface. Also, the application of this paint to a material in order to create a smooth and glossy surface.

Paintings of large areas of color, typically with no strong contrasts of tone or obvious focus of attention.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.