Pat Steir

July Waterfall

Not on view



Oil on canvas

Overall: 102 1/4 × 116 1/8in. (259.7 × 295 cm)

Accession number

"Waterfall" series

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Promised gift of Robert Miller and Betsy Wittenborn Miller

Rights and reproductions
© Pat Steir


This large-scale image belongs to Pat Steir's Waterfall series, a body of work begun in 1988 in which the artist moved from previous investigations of isolated marks and brushstrokes to exploiting the possibilities of dripping and flinging paint with full physical and expressive freedom. In July Waterfall, an oversaturated brushful of thinned oil paint was spread along the top of the canvas that had been painted matte black, and the excess paint allowed to cascade, like a waterfall, down the surface. As Steir explains, "Gravity makes the image.” The lower portion of the painting gets an evocative uplift from splashed-back skeins of paint that Steir produced by flinging paint from the end of the brush. In addition to the gestures of Abstract Expressionism, Steir’s waterfalls evoke Japanese “flung-ink” painting and other Japanese and Chinese techniques of mark making. But she approaches her subject with practiced delicacy, allowing the waterfalls, in effect, to paint themselves. Straddling the divide between abstraction and representation, the literal and the metaphorical, the painting is a waterfall at the same time as it represents one.