Agnes Martin (1912-2004)
Agnes Martin (1912-2004)

Untitled #15 (Peace)

Agnes Martin (1912-2004)
Untitled #15 (Peace)
signed and dated 'a. martin '96' (on the reverse)
acrylic and graphite on canvas
60 x 60in. (152.4 x 152.4cm.)
Executed in 1996
Pace Wildenstein, New York.
Private Collection, New York.
Anthony d'Offay Gallery, London.
Galería Elvira González, Madrid.
Acquired from the above by the present owner.
New York, Pace Wildenstein, Agnes Martin: Recent Paintings, 1997.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Lovely Life: The Recent Works of Agnes Martin, 2000.


'My paintings have neither object nor space nor line nor anything - no forms. They are light, lightness, about merging, about formlessness, breaking down form. You wouldn't think of form by the ocean. You can go in if you don't encounter anything. A world without objects, without interruption, making a work without interruption or obstacle. It is to accept the necessity of the simple, going into a field of vision as you would cross an empty beach to look at the ocean' (A. Martin, quoted in D. Schwarz (ed.), Agnes Martin Writings, Winterthur 1992, p. 7).

The serene beauty of Agnes Martin's Untitled #15 (Peace) is the physical manifestation of the artist's spiritual views about life and the nature of art. Its enticing combination of broad stripes, narrower passages of pale blue and gossamer thin graphite lines stands as a testament to her skill of being able to visualise silence and her unique ability to convey the impact of an idea without the blatant use of imagery. Her work softens the unforgiving lines that dominated the ascent of Minimalism and introduces a discernible quality of infinite delicacy and tranquility. Presented in the artist's exhibition of paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 2000, Untitled #15 (Peace) embodies the sense of stillness and calm that is the central pillar in Martin's work and demonstrates how her paintings are meant not merely to be looked at, but also experienced.

Painted just three years after she moved to Taos, New Mexico, the softly coloured, almost opaque bands are reminiscent of the ethereal desert light in which she was now working. The vast expanse of the empty landscape, where the horizon and sky merge almost imperceptibly, became the inspiration for her work and her use of colour explored the physical properties of the light spectrum, rather than the objects of colour themselves. Martin produced her almost imperceptible tones by diluting acrylic and combining it with the chalky white gesso to produce a surface which both reflects and absorbs light. Thus Martin's use of colour in these later paintings becomes part of the composition, not merely an expressive device used to represent what is being depicted within it.

In Untitled #15 (Peace), the intricacies of both the composition and the execution combine to form a work of extreme subtly; a work that expresses its supremacy by whispering its qualities rather than shouting them: 'My interest is in an experience that is wordless and silent, and in the fact that this experience can be expressed for me in an art work which is also wordless and silent' (A. Martin, quoted in T. McEvilley,' Grey Geese Descending: The Art of Agnes Martin,' in Artforum, Summer 1987, p. 99).