Adolph Gottlieb

Vigil
1948

Not on view

An important example of the pictograph series of paintings that Adolph Gottlieb produced between 1941 and 1951, Vigil is structured as a loose grid comprised of individual compartments. Gottlieb’s composition of the pictographs was largely the result of free association: he started with a template of rectilinear cells and, in a process reminiscent of the Surrealists’ method of automatic writing, impulsively filled them in with allusive symbols and totemic forms. Often the images in these heavily worked canvases achieve an uneasy compositional harmony; in Vigil the somewhat menacing quality of the teeth and eyes is counterbalanced by the biomorphic lyricism of oval outlines and snaky squiggles. Gottlieb emphasized the non-referential quality of his pictographs, insisting that their various signs and emblems “could not be read like a rebus.” At the same time, he acknowledged that “by the strange juxtapositions that occurred, a new kind of significance stemmed from this juxtaposition.”

Artist
Adolph Gottlieb

Title
Vigil

Date
1948

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Oil on canvas

Dimensions
Overall: 36 1/8 × 48 in. (91.8 × 121.9 cm)

Accession number
49.2

Credit line
Purchase

Rights and reproductions information
© Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York



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