United States of America 1912 – 1962
synthetic polymer paint on unprimed canvas
inscribed on reverse of canvas c.r., pencil, "M. Louis", possibly not by the artist, not dated
253.5 (h) x 336.5 (w) cm Purchased 1974 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1974.384 © 1959 Morris Louis
- estate of the artist;
- to Alistair McAlpine, London, through André Emmerich Gallery Inc., New York, in 1973;
- André Emmerich Gallery Inc., New York;
- from whom bought by the Interim Council of the Australian National Gallery, December 1974
- Genesis of a Gallery 1976-77
- Art Gallery of South Australia 06 Mar 1976 – 04 Apr 1976
- Art Gallery of Western Australia 29 Apr 1976 – 20 May 1976
- Art Gallery, NZV Building, Darwin 19 Jul 1976 – 02 Aug 1976
- University of Queensland 30 Aug 1976 – 12 Sep 1976
- Art Gallery of New South Wales 01 Oct 1976 – 24 Oct 1976
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery 27 Jan 1977 – 20 Feb 1977
- Australian National University 10 Mar 1977 – 03 Apr 1977
- National Gallery of Victoria 21 Jul 1978 – 20 Aug 1978
- Abstract Expressionism: the National Gallery of Australia celebrates the centenaries of Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis
- 14 Jul 2012 – 24 Feb 2013
- Genesis of a gallery: Collection of the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service 1976, illus. b&w p. ;
- Patrick McCaughey, ‘The modern period and the Australian National Gallery’, Art and Australia vol. 14 nos 3 & 4, January–April 1977, illus. col. p. 272;
- James Mollison and Laura Murray (eds), Australian National Gallery: An introduction, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1982, p. 67, illus. b&w;
- Laura Murray (ed.), Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1982, p. 27. illus. col.;
- Diane Upright, Morris Louis: The complete paintings, New York: Harry N. Abrams 1985, cat. 210, p. 152, illus. col.;
- Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American paintings and sculptures 1870–1970 in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1992, pp. 300–302, illus. col.;
- Les Murray, The full dress: An encounter with the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia 2002, p. 39, illus. col.;
- Collectionhighlights, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia 2008, p. 231 illus. col
Morris Louis’s and Kenneth Noland’s introduction to the painter Helen Frankenthaler in 1953, arranged by the art critic Clement Greenberg, is an event that has been written into Modernist folklore, as it provided the catalyst for Louis’s subsequent use of a ‘staining’ technique for painting. Dalet zayin is one of a group of paintings known as Veils which Louis began the following year, when experimenting with the technique of staining unprimed canvas, and then continued between 1957 and 1960.
The later Veils paintings, of which there are approximately 130, were begun in the winter of 1957–1958, soon after his exhibition at the Jackson Gallery, New York, in November 1957. The series was effectively concluded after his show at French and Company, New York, which was held in April 1959, but occasional Veil paintings were still made until the winter of 1959–1960. The exact dating of Louis’ Veil paintings within this sequence is problematic, as most were not dated by the artist and remained unstretched for some time after his sudden and premature death in 1962.
Louis expressed little interest in the titles of his works, at least from 1954 onwards. The paintings were only given titles when it became necessary; for example, when a work left the studio for an exhibition. Most were therefore named posthumously. After Louis’ death it was decided to title the Veils with transliterations of names of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The pictures were titled arbitrarily, in order of being stretched. The title Dalet zayin combines the fourth and seventh letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American paintings and sculptures 1870–1970 in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1992, pp. 300–302, revised Steven Tonkin 2003
Diane Upright has dated the beginning of the second Veil series on the basis of a letter from Louis to Greenberg, which mentions that a Veil painting had been shown to a potential client in the spring of 1958. As this painting, Untitled 1958, collection Mrs H. Gates Lloyd, Haverford, Pennsylvania, is a fully developed work, it is likely that it was preceded by earlier trials; see Upright, ‘In addition to the Veils’, Art in America vol. 66 no. 1, January–February 1978, pp. 84–94, at p. 88.
Even in the case of those works that were titled for exhibition, it seems most of the titles were suggested by Greenberg; see Upright, Morris Louis: The complete paintings, New York: Harry N. Abrams 1985, p. 37. The generic title Veils was coined by William Rubin; see Rubin, letter to the editor, Artforum vol. 9 no. 7, March 1971, p. 78.
The National Gallery of Australia holds three paintings by Louis: one of the Veils series, Dalet zayin 1959; Nexus II 1960, which marks the transition between the Veils and Unfurleds series; and Beta nu 1960 from the Unfurleds series;as well as two drawings, Untitled c. 1949 and Untitled 1950–53.