Lot 58
  • 58

Kenneth Noland

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
3,135,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Kenneth Noland
  • Fair
  • signed, titled and dated 1960 on the reverse; titled on the stretcher
  • oil on canvas


André Emmerich Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owners from the above in October 1960


Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts; and Fort Lauderdale, Museum of Art, Kenneth Noland: The Circle Paintings 1956-1963, November 1993 - May 1994, pp. 94-95, no. 24, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Kaleidoscopic in color and epic in ambition, Kenneth Noland’s Fair is a monumental affirmation of the visual immediacy and chromatic potency of pure, unadulterated color. Executed in 1960, Fair is an early paradigm of Noland’s pivotal Target series, the artist’s first mature body of work and arguably the most iconic, celebrated paintings in Noland’s abstract oeuvre. Epitomizing the composition for which he is most highly regarded, Fair is unique for the dynamic magnetism created by the gestural brushwork that erupts from the central form and darts towards the edges of the composition. Enthusiastically championed by the highly influential art critic Clement Greenberg, Noland’s Target paintings dispense entirely with figuration and symbolism and radically embrace total abstraction driven only by concentric bands of vibrant, saturated pigment. Pulsing with an energetic brilliance, Fair reveals the consequence of color so saturated and vibrant that it is unable to restrain itself to the rigidity of the target-like motif. Bursting forth and spiralling outwards, color here ricochets off the center of the target and resolves itself on the surface of the canvas. Engulfing and saturating the viewer in a mesmerizing whole-body experience of color and space, Fair radiates with an energy that is both solar and lunar, and that culminates in a hypnotic optical experience that seduces and envelops the viewer.

Fair has remained in the same esteemed private collection since its acquisition in 1960, the same year of its execution. That same year, Greenberg confirmed Noland’s groundbreaking genius and declared him to be one of the definitive artists of the Twentieth Century and the successor to Abstract Expressionism, writing: “[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) Reflecting the influences of Noland’s two most influential professors while a student at Black Mountain College, Fair fuses the playful vibrancy of Paul Klee with the meticulous, quasi-scientific color theory of Josef Albers to create a visual language and an approach to color and space that is distinctly his own. Treating the raw canvas as a medium capable of imparting visual depth and complexity of its own, Fair revels in the textured materiality of the canvas. Noland applies color using a staining technique learned from Color Field peer Helen Frankenthaler in which the artist pours thinned paint directly onto unprimed canvas, endowing the composition an unprecedented degree of visual complexity and impermeability.

Within the discrete zones of color imposed by the continuous concentric rings of the target motif, Fair balances complementary colors and analogous colors. The structured unity of the target motif is offset by a trail of freehand brushwork around the perimeter of the outermost ring. Compositionally stabilized by the dense, impermeable red of its innermost circle, Fair culminates with expressive, gestural brushstrokes of yellow color that erupt from the outermost circle with the centrifugal force and unrestrained vitality of gears churning into motion. The gestural painterliness of the outer ring clearly recalls Abstract Expressionism, the art historical movement out of which Color Field was born. Noland deliberately preserves a ring of unprimed canvas within the target and leaves canvas visible around the perimeter of the target, further elevating the raw canvas and treating it as capable of imparting a richness and depth of its own. Immeasurable in art historical import, Fair acknowledges the flat surface of the two-dimensional painting while simultaneously imparting a visual depth not previously imaginable in the history of easel painting.