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Jay DeFeo

The Rose

1958–66

Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66  95.170
Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66. Oil with wood and mica on canvas, 128 7/8 × 92 1/4 × 11 in. (327.3 × 234.3 × 27.9 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of the Estate of Jay DeFeo and purchase with funds from the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Judith Rothschild Foundation  95.170 For Teachers
© 2009 The Jay DeFeo Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

about this work

Jay DeFeo began this monumental work simply as an idea that was "going to have a center.” Initially, the painting measured approximately 9 × 7 feet and was called Deathrose, but in 1959, the artist transferred the work onto a larger canvas with the help of friends. She continued to work on The Rose for the next seven years, applying thick paint, then chiseling it away, inserting wooden dowels to help support the heavier areas of impasto. Now nearly eleven feet tall and weighing almost a ton, the work’s dense, multi-layered surface became, in DeFeo’s words, “a marriage between painting and sculpture.” 

First exhibited in 1969, The Rose was taken to the San Francisco Art Institute, where it was covered with plaster for support and protection, and finally stored behind the wall of a conference room. Legend grew about the painting, but it remained sealed until 1995, when Whitney curator Lisa Phillips had it excavated and restored by a team of conservators, who created a backing strong enough to support the heavy paint. DeFeo resisted offering an explanation or interpretation of the work, although she did acknowledge that despite the work’s enormous size and rough surfaces, there was a connection to “the way actual rose petals are formed and how they relate to each other in the flower.”

http://www.jaydefeo.org/therose.html#img/therose1_full.jpg

Maxwell L. Anderson. American Visionaries: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American Art. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2001), 87.

Extended object label, Whitney Museum of American Art, 2003.

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Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66  95.170
Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66  95.170

Audio guide stop for Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66
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look closer

What do you notice about this artwork?

What do you think it could be made of?

How do you think the artist created this piece?

Does this work remind you of anything?

Does this artwork seem to be more like a painting or more like a sculpture? Why do you think that?

Activities

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Jay DeFeo, The Rose, 1958–66  95.170 For Teachers

Jay DeFeo began The Rose in 1958 with an idea that the work was going to "have a center.” 1 For almost eight years, she kept applying thick paint, then chiseling away at it, and applying more paint. 

As a class, brainstorm the different ways a work of art could “have a center.” What would this work look like? What would it be made out of? Think about creating a work with many layers, like The Rose. How would your students create layers around the center of their work? Experiment with different ways to create centered and layered works using the materials in your classroom.

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