Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow and Blue III
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Red, yellow, and blue, oh my! Who’s Afraid of Red, Yellow, and Blue III, apparently some are.

This painting has been subjected to a slashing via a box cutter wielded by a deranged man, Gerard Jan van Bladeren in 1986. He served a whopping five months in prison and 11 years later, in 1997, this same assailant slashed another work of Newman’s (in the same museum!) titled, Cathedra 1951 seven times using a small Stanley-brand knife. The kicker: Mr. van Bladerne didn’t run away after his attack, he remained calmly in the galleries and waited for the police to arrive.

What caused this man to react so aggressively to Newman’s abstract paintings? Mr. van Bladeren was a mentally-disturbed realist painter who rejected modern art and used Newman’s work as an example of everything that was wrong with the art world. Salty much?

Needless to say, Mr. van Bladeren had a strong reaction to Newman, but the drama doesn’t stop there. When the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam hired Daniel Goldreyer, who was recommended by Newman’s widow nonetheless, to restore the artwork in 2001, critics accused the conservator of using a paint roller to hide the damage. Because we can’t have nice things.

Newman, along with Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still, were the O.G.’s of Color Field Painting. Color Field Painting is just a fancy word for a specific style of abstract painting where artists use large, flat fields of solid color spread throughout the canvas.

Newman hopes viewers will connect to his artwork on a spiritual level, stating, “I hope that my painting has the impact of giving someone as it did me, the feeling of his own totality, of his own separateness, of his own individuality.” As Newman reflects on man’s relationship with the divine, prepare yourself for an overwhelming physical and emotional experience. But please, for all of our sake, don’t go slashing Newman’s painting because of an overwhelming sense of emotion.



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  2. Barry James. “Roller Controversy in Amsterdam: The Restoration of Modern Art.” The New York Times. November 02, 1991. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  3. "Barnett Newman Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works." The Art Story. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  4. “Barnett Newman.” Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  5. Bowen, Monica. "Barnett Newman's Slashed Paintings ." Albertis Window: An Art History Blog. June 23, 2016. Accessed March 06, 2018.
  6. Imdahl, Max. “Barnett Newman Who’s afraid of red, yellow and blue III.” Das Erhabene. Accessed February 22, 2018. doi:10.1515/9783050082899.233.
  7. O’Connor, Zena. “Color Field Painting.” Encyclopedia of Color Science and Technology, 2015, 1-13. Accessed February 22, 2018. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-27851-8_240-1.
  8. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. “WHO'S AFRAID OF RED, YELLOW AND BLUE III ON DISPLAY.” News release. Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  9. Vogel Carol. “Dutch Vandal Slashes Museums’ Confidence.” The New York Times. November 27, 1997. Accessed February 22, 2018.
  10. Wainwright, Lisa S. “Colour-field painting.” Encyclopædia Britannica. October 26, 2015. Accessed February 22, 2018.