Temple of Deep Crimson

Richard Anuszkiewicz1985

National Academy of Design

National Academy of Design
New York, United States

A pioneer of Optical or Op art, Richard Anuszkiewicz initially worked in a representational style reminiscent of Edward Hopper before being anointed "one of the new wizards of Op," by Life magazine in 1964. Anuszkiewicz was born in Erie, PA and in 1948 enrolled at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where he received his BFA in 1953. The year before he graduated, Anuszkiewicz won the Pulitzer Traveling Scholarship from the National Academy of Design. Eschewing travel to Europe, the artist instead chose to attend the School of Art and Architecture at Yale University where he studied under Joseph Albers from 1953 to 1955. At Yale Anuszkiewicz was exposed to the work of Swiss artist Paul Klee and the writings of psychologist James J. Gibson and art historian Rudolf Arnheim, both of whom were interested in visual perception-important influences that combined and shaped Anuszkiewicz's abstract work.

In 1960 Anuszkiewicz had his first solo exhibition in New York at The Contemporaries, where the Museum of Modern Art bought two of his works for their collection even though Op art would soon generate controversy for being "too coolly calculated, too scientifically planned, too technical, too spectacular, too intellectual and optically too obtrusive." Early works by Anuszkiewicz were painted freehand and often consist of small geometric shapes painted over a solid color background creating a large a distorted shape that appears to be bulging, contracting, or twisting. These paintings have been interpreted as illustrating visionary architect Buckminster Fuller's notion of tensegrity or the balance between the forces of tension and integrity inherent in a physical structure. Throughout the 1960s, Anuszkiewicz's work became increasingly visible through its inclusion in a number of important group exhibitions including "15 Americans" (1963), "The Responsive Eye" (1965), both at the Museum of Modern Art, and "Documenta IV" in Kassel, Germany (1968).

"Temple of Deep Crimson" is a quintessential example of Anuszkiewicz's mature style and is from a series of paintings executed by the artist beginning in the early 1980s. Each incorporates a repeating pattern of vertically oriented rectangles surrounded by concentric lines of a startlingly different color. Completed after the artist returned from a trip to Egypt, it contains three central rectangles of saturated crimson surrounded by lines of the opposite but as equally saturated green hue. Symmetry is essential in Anuszkiewicz's work, and by juxtaposing opposite colors of equal saturation in works from the "Temple" series, there is a visual fluctuation between figure and ground, creating a vibrating or pulsating sensation in the eye. The result is a release of energy, or as Karl Lunde notes: "The energy of color is released as two lines of different colors approach one another in measured relationships, and it is this color energy that Anuszkiewicz studies."


  • Title: Temple of Deep Crimson
  • Creator: Richard Anuszkiewicz
  • Date Created: 1985
  • Physical Dimensions: 60 x 48 inch
  • Provenance: Gift from the artist, NA diploma presentation May 24, 1995
  • Type: Painting
  • Medium: Acrylic on canvas

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps