Ad Reinhardt, American, No. 18, 1956, Oil on canvas; 203.2 x 81.3 cm (80 x 32 inches), Gift of Richard Brown Baker 1996.11.43
Reinhardt’s spare, monochromatic paintings prefigured 1960s Minimalism. During the 1930s, he was inspired by the work of Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian (1872-1944). While teaching at Yale University with Josef Albers in the 1950s, Reinhardt employed an increasingly dark and monochromatic palette and sought to remove all connotations of color and form. He intentionally excluded colors that had symbolic value and avoided compositions that could be read as three-dimensional. Reacting against the painterly gestures of his Abstract Expressionist peers, he applied paint in thin, clean rectangles, concealing any traces of brushwork. No. 18 slightly predates his famous black paintings but shares many attributes with that series, which features symmetrical rectangles of black in shades that vary just enough to make visible the contrast between the fields.