Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental

Artist: Richard Pousette-Dart (American, St. Paul, Minnesota 1916–1992 New York)

Date: 1941–42

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 85 1/2 in. × 11 ft. 8 in. (217.2 × 355.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, 1996

Accession Number: 1996.367

Rights and Reproduction: © 2015 Estate of Richard Pousette-Dart / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Monumental in scale and densely and thickly painted, Pousette-Dart’s Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental represents a remarkable synthesis of Cubism, biomorphic Surrealism, and 1930s mural painting. Organized upon an uneven grid, the composition consists of circles, teardrops, ovals, arcs, diamonds, and crosses in a rhythmic spread of black, white, and earth tones with points of bright color. Identifiable subjects appear—perhaps a bird at lower left, or some primitive weaponry at upper left—but also fade away. The musical title suggests the artist’s desire to create in paint a grand, intensely personal aesthetic experience, like an orchestral symphony.