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KENNETH NOLAND'S EARLY "CIRCLES" were his breakthrough paintings. They announced his emergence as a major artist.

Although sometimes referred to as "targets" Noland's Circles are more like symbolic representations of solar systems: an orb at the center surrounded by color orbits. The resemblance is reinforced in some early Circles where the outside ring is a kind of effulgence. In those particular pictures, the images recall Gottlieb's Burst paintings, with the upper "disk" image superimposed on the lower "burst".

Graphic suggestion, especially in the form of painterly "effulgences" is common in the earlier works. However, as Noland's color vocabulary grew, the painterly graphic element was replaced by color. A kind of "pulse" was created among the color "orbits" in relation to the square picture format. The relation of image to format became a constant preoccupation in Noland's subsequent work.

The development of the series was continuous, but might be broken into three phases:

1956-58: beginnings
1958-60: consolidation and exploration
1960-63: refinement and development

For more complete information on the Circle paintings, see: William C. Agee, Kenneth Noland, The Circle Paintings, 1956-63, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1993
also, "Appreciating Noland" on this website.



Globe, 1956

Ex-Nihilo, 1958

Beginnings, 1958

Spread, 1958

Song, 1958

Circle 1958-59

This, 1958-59

That 1958-59

Plunge 1958-58

Half 1959


Split 1959


Back and Front 1960


Alliance 1960


Earthen Bound 1960


Whirl 1960

Flutter 1960

Nieuport 1960

Quid 1960

Sunwise 1960

Gift 1960-61

Spring Cool 1962

Drought 1962

Burnt Day 1962


Indian Territory 1962

Untitled 1963


I've represented the reproductions in virtual frames against a virtual wall for the following reasons:

Real paintings are pictures that insist on "presence," something that unbounded reproduction doesn't provide. Paintings declare themselves in real space against walls. I've tried to create the illusion of that. I beieve that it gives a more accurate impression of the presence of the original. The frame also enables the whites and very light colours to separate from their surroundings ­ usually a light background.