Untitled (Hercules)

  • Robert Longo, Untitled (Hercules), 2008, charcoal on paper, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2009.1, © 2008, Robert Longo and Metro Pictures

The atomic bomb is one of the most complicated and emotionally charged subjects of the twentieth century. The development of atomic technology in the early 1940s propelled countries around the globe to acquire nuclear power, and launched a debate about its use that persists today. Robert Longo’s drawings of atomic and hydrogen blasts from the Cold War era acknowledge both the complexity and relevance of this issue for contemporary audiences. The series was inspired by an encounter with his children, in which they mistook an image of an atomic blast for a weather phenomenon.

Untitled (Hercules) combines stunning visual presence and awe-inspiring physical power — themes that have engaged the artist throughout his career. The image is based on an archival photograph of the first Chinese hydrogen bomb test performed June 17, 1967. Longo’s elegant depiction of the looming mushroom cloud and the reality of what it signifies creates an elemental tension with this highly accomplished drawing. Meticulously drawn in black charcoal on white paper, and presented on a cinematic scale, Untitled (Hercules) presents an image of historical and contemporary significance. 

Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2009

Untitled (Hercules)
Not on view
9670 in. (243.8177.8 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Mediums Description
charcoal on paper
  • Object – weapon – nuclear bomb
Object Number
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