Red Span

Media - 1976.108.39 - SAAM-1976.108.39_1 - 53602
Copied Thomas Downing, Red Span, 1964, acrylic on canvas, 28 1828 18 in. (71.571.4 cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Woodward Foundation, 1976.108.39

Artwork Details

Red Span
28 1828 18 in. (71.571.4 cm)
back upper center in felt-tipped pen & ink: Downing 12/64 back upper left in felt-tipped pen and ink: Woodward Collection #189 back upper center in felt-tipped pen and ink: "RED SPAN" back lower left in pencil: 433A
Credit Line
Gift of the Woodward Foundation
Mediums Description
acrylic on canvas
  • Abstract — geometric
Object Number

Artwork Description

Thomas Downing was a member of the Washington Color School, a group of artists who worked in Washington, D.C., during the larger Color Field movement that started in the 1940s and continued into the '60s. Color Field artists abandoned figural representation to explore the expressive power of color, applying it across large canvases to see how different colors relate to one another and to emphasize the canvas's flat surface. Downing favored simple geometric forms, usually circles, which he carefully placed to form precise patterns. In Red Span, red, yellow, blue and black shapes arc gracefully around one another, the colors enlivened by a slender wedge of exposed canvas. Downing, like many Color Field painters, did not prime his canvases, a technique that allowed his pigments to soak into the weave, creating a more saturated, vivid appearance.