Barnett Newman is one of the leading artists of the Abstract Expressionism movement that emerged in the U.S. after World War II. Along with Mark Rothko he proposed a style called Color Field painting, creating compositions with vertical lines known as "zips" running down monochrome fields of color.
This representative work of the color field painting style was created when Newman was 63. Its title Anna’s Light takes the name of the artist’s mother, who had died three years before its creation. None of Newman’s paintings surpass this one, not only in terms of size but also the intensity and magnitude of the color. The enormous 2.8m high by 6.1m wide canvas is covered with red paint, applied in multiple coats, first with a roller and then with a brush. There is nothing particular that is painted on the picture plane but it is full of rich color, a strong red that fill the viewer’s field of vision.
About his own painting, Newman says: "Since I was not painting anything that I was looking at in relation to the painting, there was nothing really to scrutinize---there was the painting itself that had its subject matter, had its content, which I hoped had an effect on me and therefore would have an effect on anybody else who saw the painting ---that I in some way characterized the emotional content at least that I had had when I worked at it. So my titles, I think I try in my titles anyway to evoke the meaning that the painting had when I was painting it."
There is usually a tendency to view a large painting like this from a distance, but it is said that Newman wanted his large painting to be viewed from a short distance. For that reason, The Newman Room in the Kawamura museum where Anna’s Light hangs has been designed so that the viewers will not stand too far from the painting.
Barnett Newman, Anna’s Light, 1968, 276.0 x 611.0cm
© 2008 Barnett Newman Foundation/ARS, New York/SPDA, Tokyo
Newman Room in Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art