Adolph Gottlieb was a first generation Abstract Expressionist painter, and a leading figure amongst the burgeoning group of downtown artists known as The New York School. Along with fellow larger-than-life figures like Pollock, de Kooning and Rothko, by the 1950’s the group would come to capture the attention of the world, cementing America’s, and particularly New York’s, influence as the center of the creative avant-garde.

Gottlieb’s impact within the Abstract Expressionist movement specifically, was powerful. Along with Mark Rothko, he penned an impassioned letter, published in The New York Times in 1943, that is widely considered to be the movement’s manifesto. “We favor the simple expression of complex thought,” they wrote.  “We wish…to destroy illusion and reveal truth.”

Gottlieb expressed this philosophy to tremendous effect in his exceptional output of artwork. Though his oeuvre is varied, he is best known for his widely celebrated series of ‘Burst’ paintings, which he began in the mid-1950s and continued to explore until his death in 1974. These works display smooth, round areas of color suspended above vigorously gestural brushstrokes, a synthesis of Color Field painting and gestural abstraction. 

Freeman’s is thrilled to present “Brown on Black” in its upcoming Nov. 7 Modern & Contemporary Art sale. “Brown on Black” is an excellent example from this series and is emblematic of the artist’s iconic visual lexicon. Set against an inky black background, a vibrant red orb radiates with energy. Its smooth and diffuse lines serve as a dynamic counterpoint to the painterly brushstrokes found in the background and the amorphous brown shape hovering below. 

A wonderful exploration of color, shape, line and texture, “Brown on Black” is also a captivating expression of Gottlieb’s ability to portray feeling through abstraction.  Originally purchased at Marlborough Gallery in 1971, “Brown on Black” has been in the same private collection for over 45 years.

View the Modern & Contemporary Art Catalogue today.