NARRATOR: The artist Oscar Bluemner once wrote, “Listen to my work as you listen to music. Look at the space filled with color and try to feel—feel; do not insist on understanding.”
In this painting, Situation in Yellow, the sky is a dark red-brown and the simplified forms of the buildings are an acidic yellow, offset by black. The gray canal in the foreground and the dark trees in the background add an ominous element. Toward the end of his life, Bluemner noted that he often used the combination of black and lemon yellow to, quote, “stir up an exquisite sensation.” Of the color red, he said that it represented, quote, “fire, passion, the sun, struggle, and majesty.” Bluemner, a German immigrant, ascribed meaning to different colors, borrowing his ideas from the German philosopher Goethe.
Bluemner believed very strongly that art should aspire to unite opposing forces. For him that meant bringing nature and architecture into a compositional harmony. He associated nature with femininity and buildings with masculinity. This meant that he thought of landscapes like this one as a kind of human drama—one without an explicit narrative.