22 October 2018
Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992) Presence, Ramapo Mist (1969), oil on linen, 2281mm x 3658mm), Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of an anonymous donor
Images on right, from top:
Untitled, c.1960s, Pen and ink on paper, 76 × 152 mm, The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate
Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992). Untitled (The Web, and Wall Sculpture), 1950, steel wire, wood frame and paint, 1270×1270×457mm, The Richard Pousette-Dart Estate
Richard Pousette-Dart (1916-1992). Nightscape, c.1948 , oil on linen, 1092 × 1460 mm, J & J Collection
Richard Pousette-Dart, Four brass rings and one jade ring, c. 1940-1951, brass and jade, [L to R] 65 x 65 x 50 mm, 57 x 57 x 57 mm, 64 x 64 x 80 mm, 74 x 74 x 50 mm, 58 x 58 x 50 mm, Kettle’s Yard, University of Cambridge.
I hope I’ll find a suitable gallery for the large paintings, I’d like to show them at the same time. 
Richard Pousette-Dart to Jim Ede, 1943.
It is often assumed that Jackson Pollock was the first Abstract Expressionist artist to start working at a very large scale in 1943. However, Richard Pousette-Dart had already completed his painting Symphony No. 1, The Transcendental the year before, making it arguably one of the movement’s first monumental canvasses.
Pousette-Dart’s immense paintings were so unusual in the early 1940s that some galleries didn’t have large enough walls to display them. At Kettle’s Yard you can see the beautiful immersive two by three metre painting Presence, Ramapo Mist (1969). Alongside these huge paintings Pousette-Dart was also making tiny works such as Untitled (c. 1960s), pictured here, measuring approximately eight by fifteen centimetres.
Richard Pousette-Dart to Jim Ede, letter, 24 May 1943, PD0123, Kettle’s Yard Archive.
I dreamed sculpture. 
Richard Pousette-Dart is best known for his paintings which have colourful layered surfaces; however, he also worked in a wide variety of media and he began his artistic career as a sculptor and photographer.
Pousette-Dart made sculptures in stone, brass, wire and other materials, some of which are included in the exhibition at Kettle’s Yard. Like Jim Ede, the creator of Kettle’s Yard, he especially admired the work of the French-born sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska (1891-1915).
 Richard Pousette-Dart, ‘My Life In Brief’, 1937, PD0001, p. 1, Kettle’s Yard Archive.
I paint creative action. 
Richard Pousette-Dart to his mother Flora, 1941
Expressionist painting is a term often used in relation to Jackson Pollock’s vigorously poured and dripped canvases. Richard Pousette-Dart’s highly-worked, layered and equally expressive canvases, were rarely discussed using this terminology. However, this quote from a letter to his mother shows that he was thinking in these terms over a decade before Rosenberg popularised the term ‘action painting.’
 Richard Pousette-Dart to Flora Pousette-Dart, letter, 5 April 1941, Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.
Circles are/whatever you make them/all or nothing/they are living signs of flowers or spirit/they are signs of heaven/rising & falling suns & moons/the centre of the earth and universe/God[’s] eye […] they tremble in my transcendental landscape
Richard Pousette-Dart, Notebook B-89, 1965
The circle dominates Pousette-Dart’s work more than any other form. In 1940 he gave Jim Ede a small, circular brass ring as a ‘token’ of their friendship. Pousette-Dart believed that the circle, as a symbol, was a spiritual form. For him the circle signalled the ‘circular vibration’ of ‘eternal life’.
Five brass rings are on display at Kettle’s Yard, as well as many of his later paintings such as Black Circle, Time, 1979-80 and Square of Meditation #2, 1979.
To teach is to learn […] if we ever think we know all there is to know about our creativity we are dead as artists.
Richard Pousette-Dart, c 1980s.