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Barbara Novak, b.1928

Red, Yellow and Blue2004

Barbara Novak has painted flowers since childhood, long before her immersion in art history. She took watercolour classes at Parsons School of Design, the Art Students League, New York and the Brooklyn Museum. According to Novak:

‘Nature and art…have different requirements, which war within the picture. The flowers press for an exact delineation…The paintings have their own needs. How do the flowers dispose themselves on the two-dimensional surface? What are the interrelations on that surface plane? What rhythms are set up between the flowers and their winding stems on the white surface of the paper that stands for light and space at the same time? How are the colours orchestrated between the flowers, or even within a single flower, with its range of tones and hues? Sometimes I find the flowers themselves so insistent that I have to pull back and think of the needs of the picture. At other times, when I am more compelled to let the paint take control, I end up with something more abstract in feeling’.*

*Barbara Novak, in Brian O’Doherty, ‘Barbara Novak: Tasting of Flora and the Country Green’, in Artists and Writers and Husbands and Wives (Eaton Fine Art: New York, 2002), pp 8-20.

MediumWatercolour on paper
Dimensions49.7 x 45.6 cm Framed: 70.5 x 63.5 cm
Credit LineIMMA Collection: Donation, Novak/O'Doherty Collection, 2015
Item NumberIMMA.3932
Copyright For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].
Image Caption
Barbara Novak, Red, Yellow and Blue, 2004, Watercolour on paper, 49.7 x 45.6 cm Framed: 70.5 x 63.5 cm, Collection Irish Museum of Modern Art, Donation, Novak/O'Doherty Collection, 2015

For copyright information, please contact the IMMA Collections team: [email protected].

About the Artist

Barbara Novak b.1928

Barbara Novak is one of America’s premier art historians. She graduated from Barnard College, and pursued her graduate work at Harvard. She joined the faculty of Barnard College in 1958. In 1969 Novak’s ground-breaking ‘American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism and the American Experience’, was published. This was followed in 1980 by ‘Nature and Culture: American Landscape and Painting 1825-1875’, which was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of the Year by the New York Times. After a long and highly distinguished career, Novak retired in 1998 as Helen Goodhart Altschul Professor of Art History Emerita at Barnard College, where a chaired professorship was named in her honour. She has served on the boards of the American Art Journal, the College Art Journal, the National Academy of Design and the New York Historical Society. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, for which she served as a Commissioner for twenty-five years, recently established the Barbara Novak Acquisition Fund. In addition to her critical and theoretical practice, Novak is an accomplished watercolour painter. Her work has been shown at New York’s Drawing Center, at P.S.1, and is in private and public collections.
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