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Description: Barnett Newman: A Catalogue Raisonné
~A catalogue raisonné not only visually represents all the works that an artist has created and chosen to preserve but also marshals all the ascertainable facts about their date, medium, size, and ownership. A complete exhibition and publication history are ideally included for each work, providing information about its critical reception. Such a...
PublisherYale University Press
A catalogue raisonné not only visually represents all the works that an artist has created and chosen to preserve but also marshals all the ascertainable facts about their date, medium, size, and ownership. A complete exhibition and publication history are ideally included for each work, providing information about its critical reception. Such a catalogue allows the art historian to place an artist contextually in his time, culture, and artistic milieu.
Barnett Newman died in New York on July 4, 1970. Not long afterward his widow, Annalee Newman, remarked to me that her two principal goals in her remaining years would be to place all of Newman’s paintings and drawings—many of which she had inherited—in great museums and important private collections and to create a foundation in his name. One of the main tasks of the foundation, she said, would be to prepare a catalogue raisonné of Newman’s works. In 1979 she established The Barnett Newman Foundation. By charter, one of its primary purposes is to promote and sponsor research on the artist’s work and life.
After Newman’s death, Annalee also continued to add to the voluminous archives documenting her husband’s career that she had begun to assemble when they were married, in 1936. When I first met her, these archives were housed in thirty-six large green filing drawers in the apartment the Newmans had shared for many years on West End Avenue in New York. When Annalee later moved to her new home in River House, they were kept in white filing cabinets, which multiplied over the years as the files continued to grow.
In 1995 Annalee asked me to become Executive Director of The Barnett Newman Foundation and to find an appropriate office space where her archives could be accommodated and which would also serve as a headquarters for commissioning and carrying out the myriad tasks associated with a catalogue raisonné. In this role, one of my first steps was to hire Jane Bobko to administer the office. She worked for the Foundation for several years, helping to launch the catalogue on a smooth course.
Heidi Colsman-Freyberger, a noted researcher and bibliographer who had previously worked on three other artists’ catalogues raisonnés, was engaged to catalogue Newman’s oeuvre in its entirety and to prepare the provenance, exhibition history, and publication history for each work. Had it not been for her meticulousness, persistence, and imagination, this might have proved an insurmountable task, for the information she sought came from a vast number of sources and had to be checked, analyzed, and managed with the help of sophisticated computer software. Moreover, the primary documentation assembled by Annalee had to be reviewed, as did the vast number of publications on Newman and his work.
The talented art photographer Bruce White, who has contributed his fine work to many publications of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other great institutions, was hired to photograph every work of art—paintings, drawings, graphics, sculptures, an architectural model, and ephemera—created by Barnett Newman and not destroyed by him. The logistics of this photographic campaign were complex, involving a huge web of connections between museums, collectors, the photographer, and the Foundation, to say nothing of travel bureaus and hotels. The campaign engaged Bruce’s attention for many months during a three-year period.
Art historian Richard Shiff, who holds the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art at the University of Texas at Austin, then agreed to write an essay for the catalogue. A highly regarded scholar and critic of modern art, Shiff had written an introduction to Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews, published in 1990, and a very perceptive essay for the catalogue of the 2002 Philadelphia Museum of Art retrospective of Newman’s work, organized by Ann Temkin. “To Create Oneself,” his essay for this volume, is a masterful study of Newman’s purposes and achievements.
Carol C. Mancusi-Ungaro, Director of Conservation at the Whitney Museum of American Art and Director of the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, Harvard University Art Museums, worked for several years with the distinguished critic and art historian Yve-Alain Bois, examining Newman’s paintings, both front and back, and making tests of materials and shrewd observations of techniques. Her groundbreaking essay on Newman’s painting practice will, I believe, stand as a model for technical essays in other catalogues raisonnés.
Yve-Alain Bois, who is Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Professor of Modern Art and Chair, Department of the History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University, made other important contributions. He has helpfully guided Heidi Colsman-Freyberger in certain aspects of her work, and his especially insightful chronological listing of Newman’s paintings has been faithfully followed in the catalogue raisonné.
Now that I had assembled the main creators of the catalogue raisonné—authors and photographer—it was my goal to put together a first-rate team to edit, design, and print this book. Bruce Campbell, celebrated designer of the Library of America volumes and of many publications for the Metropolitan Museum of Art over a period of more than twenty years, was asked to create the design for the publication. Gwen Roginsky, equally celebrated in the world of art-book publishing for her superior eye, knowledge, and judgment in the art of color printing, signed on to produce the book—which means to color-correct and approve all the images and to supervise the printing of the volume.
Upon the receipt of the Mancusi-Ungaro and Shiff chapters, Ellyn Childs Allison, who has been an art-book editor for several decades, was engaged to edit the manuscripts and to oversee the proofreading and authors’ corrections. Robert Weisberg, a desktop publisher with years of experience, typeset the entire catalogue.
During the years the catalogue was in preparation, Jane Bobko was succeeded by Sarah Henry as administrator, and then by Brigid Herold. Brigid also compiled the list of books in Barnett Newman’s library at the time of his death that appears in the back of the catalogue.
Meanwhile, the legal and fiscal aspects of the project were overseen by the Foundation’s counsel, John Silberman. Both he and his colleagues—especially Donn Zaretsky and Alicia Reissman—have been extremely supportive and helpful in the huge endeavor the catalogue has proven to be.
The guiding spirit behind all of our work, an artist who understands the value of a catalogue raisonné produced to exacting standards, has been Frank Stella, Trustee of The Barnett Newman Foundation. He fully understood Annalee’s mandate for this catalogue, as did Paula Pelosi, his assistant and Executor of the Annalee Newman Estate, who was especially close to Annalee in her final years. These two individuals have made it possible for the Foundation to create this publication.
I am also grateful to Patricia Fidler, publisher of art and architecture books at Yale University Press, which is distributing the catalogue worldwide. Her enthusiasm for the project, and that of John Donatich, Yale’s director, have been very reassuring.
A late decision was made not to include biographical material in this publication because a comprehensive chronology by Melissa Ho was published in 2002 in Ann Temkin’s Barnett Newman (Philadelphia Museum of Art). That chronology, largely based on information contained in the Barnett Newman Foundation archives, is also available online at, courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
In conclusion, I want to thank all the people I have mentioned. Their dedication and hard work have made Annalee Newman’s goal a reality. All the museums and private collectors who have allowed us to examine and photograph their works for this publication—thereby opening new paths for scholarship and research—are also most gratefully acknowledged. Finally, my thanks and those of the Foundation staff are owed to the sculptor Robert Murray, a friend of Barnett Newman’s who assisted him with a number of projects. Murray has given unstintingly of his time to respond to many questions about the artist that only an eyewitness could answer.
I consider it a privilege and an honor to have been in charge of the creation of the Newman catalogue raisonné. I want to thank Annalee Newman for her trust in me and hope that it has not been misplaced.
John P. O’Neill
Executive Director
The Barnett Newman Foundation