Ad Reinhardt

Abstract Painting

Not on view



Oil on linen

Overall: 60 × 60 1/8in. (152.4 × 152.7 cm)

Accession number

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from The Lauder Foundation, Leonard and Evelyn Lauder Fund

Rights and reproductions
©Estate of Ad Reinhardt/Artists Rights Society (ARS)


The long gestation of Ad Reinhardt’s Abstract Painting reveals the extent of the artist’s notorious perfectionism; he only considered the canvas (begun in 1960) finished in 1966, the year of his important retrospective exhibition at The Jewish Museum in New York. What at first appears to be an unmodulated, all-black square reveals its tonal nuances and somber variations only after sustained, attentive viewing. The field of color optically separates into underlying rectilinear divisions, which differ in value, hue, and luster in such small increments that the transitions from one to the next are almost imperceptible. Its exquisite subtleties are mostly lost in reproduction—as Reinhardt knew they would be; the only viable experience, he felt, was in contemplating the actual painting. The artist painted only black-on-black works between 1953 and his death in 1967—a total of twenty-five of them. He wanted to create “the last paintings anyone can paint,” he said, and described his project in 1961 as “a pure, abstract, non-objective, timeless, spaceless, changeless, relationless, disinterested painting.”