• Grid
  • List

Collections> Browse > The Third

Collections> Browse > The Third

Image Rights
Courtesy Walker Art Center
Copyright 1999 Barnett Newman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


All content including images, text documents, audio, video, and interactive media published on the Walker website (walkerart.org) is for noncommercial, educational, journalistic and/or personal use only. Any commercial use or republication is strictly prohibited. Copying, redistribution, or exploitation for personal or corporate gain is not permitted.

For information on the use of reproductions for publishing and/or commercial use, please contact rights.reproductions@walkerart.org.

The Third
unframed 101-½ × 120-¼ × 2 inches
oil on canvas
Not on view

Object Details

Paintings (Paintings)
Accession Number
“Barnett Newman 1962”/l.r.c.
Physical Description
Orange field with two vertical stripes of yellow one at each end of the canvas. Left end of canvas (about four inches) left raw with sporadic orange brushstrokes.
Credit Line
Gift of Judy and Kenneth Dayton, 1978

object label Barnett Newman, The Third (1962) , 1999

The present painter can be said to work with chaos not only in the sense that he is handling the chaos of the blank picture plane but also in that he is handling the chaos of form. In trying to go beyond the visible and the known world he is working with forms that are unknown even to him.–Barnett Newman, 1943-1945

Barnett Newman is one of the most important artists of the Abstract Expressionist movement, which developed in New York in the late 1940s. Both his art and his role as an engaged and vocal critic within the Federation of American Painters and Sculptors helped shape an emerging group of painters devoted to seeking new and original modes of expression. This group, also known as the New York School, included other painters whose works are in this gallery: Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell, Beauford Delaney, and Ad Reinhardt.

In his large Color Field paintings, Newman sought to eliminate any reference to objects, figures, and symbols. He found himself left with only one remaining subject–pure empty space–which he chose to interpret as color. The two vertical lines that interrupt this orange expanse–almost appearing to float over it rather than divide it–he called “zips.” Newman’s pared-down compositions and his use of bold, flat color greatly influenced the Minimalist artists of the 1960s and 1970s.

Walker solo exhibition: Barnett Newman: The Sublime Is Now, 1994

Label text for Barnett Newman, The Third (1962), from the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 5, 1999 to September 2, 2001.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

curatorial commentary Joan Rothfuss discusses Barnett Newman’s The Third (1962) , September 1999

The next work I chose was Barnett Newman’s painting The Third, which is a late painting, 1962 – he died in 1970 – but very typical of the kind of work that he was developing in the late 1940s as a member of the abstract expressionist group, which was working in the U.S. and working, again, in the wake of World War II trying to redefine what painting had been. Again, coming out of a very strongly figurative tradition of surrealism, they were trying-the abstract expressionists-to empty out the figurative content and simply and distill. They saw abstraction as not a lack of subject matter but more a fullness of subject matter that was collectively-based so that the specifics of, let’s say, a Leonardo would tie it directly to its time. They wanted to get rid of that and still retain some of the collective aspects of the subject matter that they felt were shared by everybody who was a human being. That, of course, came out of their interest in Jungian psychology and the collective unconscious and things that everybody understands sort of instinctively that they felt they were trying to reach in their painting.

Newman was working with color and he had talked about wanting to use his painting to create space and to create an architectural feeling of space for the viewer who stands in front of the painting. So, it’s a little bit like what Fontana was doing in terms of trying to bring a kind of three-dimensional space to the picture; but, what Newman did that was different was he adjusted the scale of the work. He made the scale of his works very large. Fontana still sort of traditionally domestically scaled smaller size canvases. Barnett Newman’s work … huge. This one is typical in that way. It’s a very large size. And he used color to try and create the sense of spacial fullness. This painting is almost solid orange. He talked about the blaze and the heat of his color. He understood that some people had trouble standing in front of that kind of energy and intensity. He used scale and intense color for the creation of a kind of space and a tragic, as he called it, dimension to the subject matter. These things that he puts on the side, these strips of color, are sort of like the slashes that Fontana did. I think they function to remind you that this is actually a surface that you’re looking at and it’s not a void and it’s not a window into this intense space of orangeness. It lets you know that you’re looking at a painting. He called them zips. They appear in many of his works. He said that he wasn’t interested in the void at all and he was interested in something that was actually a presence.

Joan Rothfuss, Associate Curator of Visual Arts, Walker Art Center, commenting on Barnett Newman’s The Third (1962), during the exhibition Art in Our Time: 1950 to the Present, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, September 1999.

Copyright 1999 Walker Art Center

object label Barnett Newman, The Third (1962) , 1998

Barnett Newman’s monumental painting is made up of just two colors, yellow and orange. In his work Newman sought to eliminate any reference to objects, figures, and symbols. He found himself left with only one remaining subject: pure empty space.

Since no one can actually see the space that exists between two people or two objects, Newman chose to interpret space as color. To make his idea of space more apparent, he created huge paintings that envelop you when you stand in front of them.

In this painting, a large field of orange stretches from the far right almost to the left edge of the canvas, representing Newman’s expansive idea of space. He included two vertical lines–which he called “zips”–that interrupt this orange expanse, almost appearing to float over it rather than divide it. Now look at the far left side of the painting where Newman’s orange space breaks apart. Do you think this is where this space begins or ends?

Newman’s pared-down compositions and his use of bold, flat color greatly influenced the Minimal artist of the 1960s and 1970s and led the way to one of the ultimate expressions of modernist art–monochromatic painting.

Barnett Newman explains his use of color
“It is interesting to me to notice how difficult it is for people to take the intense heat and blaze of my color. If my paintings were empty they could take them with ease. I have always worked with color without regard for existing rules concerning intensity, value, or non-value. Also, I have never manipulated colors–I have tried to create color.”

Descriptive text for Barnett Newman, The Third (1962), Walker Art Center.

Copyright 1998 Walker Art Center