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PH-235 (detail)
PH-235, 1944 (detail), 1944-N-No. 1, Oil on canvas. 105 x 92.5 in. © City and County of Denver

Finishing Touches as “The War Begins”

The Clyfford Still Museum’s tenth exhibition, The War Begins: Clyfford Still’s Paths to Abstraction, opened on October 10. Museum staff were treated to a teaser tour by Director Dean Sobel and Senior Consulting Curator David Anfam on Wednesday, October 8, during the conclusion of installation work.

A highlight was examining the “Dante-esque, infernal, nocturnal vision” of Still’s PH-618, 1942, juxtaposed with a pair of realistic paintings also from that year, hung on the same wall in the exhibition’s opening gallery. Sobel notes that in this World War II period, Still “takes realism on and off like a coat.” Anfam, who organized the exhibition, says in his introduction, “Typically, Still saw no contradiction between simultaneously working in representational and abstract styles. On the contrary, his skillful draftsmanship helped nourish his non-objective language.”

ThL to R: PH-618, PH-620, and PH-625, all paintings of 1942. © City and County of Denver

In the final room of the exhibition, Still’s PH-235, also known as 1944-N-No. 1., enjoys pride of place along the south wall of the gallery. Visitors who look closely will notice a crack in the gallery wall that—somewhat eerily, perhaps—mimics the red forms in the painting.

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