NARRATOR: Richard Pousette-Dart was one of the first Abstract Expressionists to work on a monumental scale. With its intense colors and thick black contour lines, The Magnificent looks from a distance like a stained-glass window. But as one gets closer, the surface becomes the painting’s most insistent feature. It’s not only thick and richly textured, but multi-layered. Pousette-Dart began the work by inscribing graphic images on the canvas—the totemistic forms that interested many Abstract Expressionists through the 1940s. He then obscured these figures, moving towards abstraction but retaining a sense of cryptic, symbolic significance beneath the surface.

Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992), _The Magnificent_, 1950–1951. Oil on canvas, 86 1/4 x 44 in. (219.08 x 111.76 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Mrs. Ethel K. Schwabacher 53.43