Lot 26
  • 26


2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Kenneth Noland
  • Flutter
  • signed, titled, and dated 1960 on the reverse
  • acrylic on canvas
  • 67 1/2 by 67 in. 171.5 by 170.2 cm.


Carter Burden, New York
Mr. Albrecht and Mrs. Agnes Gund Saalfield, Concord, Massachusetts
Larry Gagosian Gallery, Los Angeles
Steve Martin, Los Angeles
The artist, Vermont (acquired from the above in 1990)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in December 1994


New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Kenneth Noland: New Works, March - April 1961, n.p. (text)
Boston, The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, Color Abstractions: Selections from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, November 1979 - January 1980
Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, The Agnes Gund-Saalfield Collection, June - August 1982
New York, Stephen Mazoh Gallery, Twentieth Century Works of Art, Fall 1985, no. 17, illustrated
Edmonton, Canada, Edmonton Art Gallery, Appreciating Noland, November 1990 - January 1991, p. 65 (text)


Barbara Rose, "Kenneth Noland," Art International, Summer 1964, p. 59, illustrated
Kenworth Moffett, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1977, p. 125, no. 92, illustrated
Karen Wilkin, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1990, p. 37, no. 11, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

"The spare geometry of his form heightens the emotional impact of his color. The rational and the felt, distilled form and sensuous color intermesh to create a magic presence. His color is space. Color is all." - Diane Waldman, Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective, 1977, p. 36 Pulsing forth in sheer washes of ethereal colors, Flutter is a superlative example from Kenneth Noland’s most prolific series that established him as the foremost figure of Color Field Painting. Executed in 1960, the present work is an early paradigm of Noland’s pivotal Target series, the artist’s first mature body of work and one of the most recognizable and iconic group of paintings in Noland’s Post-War abstract oeuvre. Flutter epitomizes Noland’s magnificent use of familiar concentric circles as the boundary areas of color, masterfully transcending the limitations of geometric compositions in art. By layering bands of vibrant, saturated pigment atop the canvas, Noland creates a unique viewing experience of total abstraction. The radical genius illustrated in Flutter is further propelled by the artistic endorsement from Clement Greenberg, the most influential critic and arbiter of twentieth-century American Modernism as well as the foremost theorist on advanced modernist painting, who championed the clarity, articulation and resolution found in the present work: “[Noland’s] color counts by its clarity and its energy; it is not there neutrally, to be carried by the design and drawing; it does the carrying itself.” (Clement Greenberg quoted in Kenneth Moffet, Kenneth Noland, New York, 1977, p. 51)

Flawlessly executed, the discrete zones of color in Flutter create a mesmerizing allure that hark back to the most influential artistic forces during Noland’s education at Black Mountain College. The meticulous, quasi-scientific color theory found in the present work is a superb articulation of a schematic approach created by the prolific German-born American painter Josef Albers, who visibly shaped Noland’s visual language while under his tutelage at Black Mountain College. Noland’s experimentation with varying color palettes led the artist to create the ideal form on canvas, evidenced by Flutter, in which color and form are held in perfect equilibrium. In order to elevate the interaction between color and space, Noland employed a soak-stain technique pioneered by his Color Field peer in the early 1950s, Helen Frankenthaler. Noland adopted this unique painterly technique in an effort to reveal the texture and materiality of the unprimed canvas. By bonding the paint and support as a single, unified entity, the raw canvas functions as both its literal self, as well as a space in which the color areas are nearly weightless. The centrifugal force of the defined blue center in Flutter is emphasized by the lightness, airiness and pulsation of surrounding bands of color that create the illusion of motion and energy while maintaining a luminosity that is characteristic of only the most striking of Targets. Diane Waldman notes: "The spare geometry of his form heightens the emotional impact of his color. The rational and the felt, distilled form and sensuous color intermesh to create a magic presence. His color is space. Color is all." (Diane Waldman, Exh. Cat., New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Kenneth Noland: A Retrospective, 1977, p. 36)

This evocatively titled painting, Flutter, is an exquisite circulation of bold, stained pigments against a prominent raw canvas - a defining feature of Noland’s celebrated artistic output – that amplifies the transcendent nature of the Target motif. Although the Target motif in Flutter’s seemingly simple form resonated deeply within Noland’s history, calling to mind badges on military uniforms from his army days, the pictorial composition was more importantly a means of evoking sensual perception through diaphanous color. Crisply painted white strokes circle the central core of dazzling royal blue; organic rings of indigo, green, ochre, and gold bleed outward toward the edges of the canvas, as if breathing into this empty space. In 1961, André Emmerich notably celebrated Noland's Target series in a widely acclaimed exhibition, which included the present work among other superlative examples of the artist's output.

Utterly sublime and perfectly symmetrical, the artist creates impressive unity and clarity with the cascading splashes of splendidly rich pigment. The breathtaking dynamism in Flutter’s dizzying concentric rings of motion is further evidenced by its impressive origins of ownership, including Agnes Gund and her first husband, Albrecht Saalfield, Larry Gagosian's gallery in Los Angeles, revered actor, comedian, musician, and author Steve Martin's personal collection. Flutter next returned to the collection of the artist himself, whose reunion with Flutter thirty years after its creation compounds the undeniable significance of this painting as a supreme example of the artist’s most iconic, celebrated series.