Listening to Art

01.06: Barnett Newman, Day One

Download (MP3).

Listening to Art, by William Denton.

Volume one, number six: Day One by Barnett Newman.

Hello, and welcome to Listening to Art. I’m William Denton.

This issue is the second of three devoted to the American artist Barnett Newman, who lived from 1905 to 1970.

Day One was painted in 1951 and 1952, but not shown until 1958 at an exhibition in Bennington, Vermont.

In 1970, two months before he died, Newman was interviewed by Emile de Antonio for Painters Painting, a documentary film released in 1972. If you’re interested in art from this period then you will certainly want to see it, but even if not, it’s fascinating because it is artists (including Newman, Jasper Johns, Helen Frankenthaler, Frank Stella, Robert Motherwell and others) talking about their work, usually in their studios. I highly recommend it. You can find it through your local library or perhaps on YouTube.

Newman’s interview was transcribed for a book that was made of the film, and this was included in Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews, edited by John O’Neill (pp. 302–308). Newman said:

Some twenty-two years ago in a gathering, I was asked what my painting really means in terms of society, in terms of the world, in terms of the situation. And my answer then was that if my work were properly understood, it would be the end of state capitalism and totalitarianism. Because to the extent that my painting was not an arrangement of objects, not an arrangement of spaces, not an arrangement of graphic elements, was an open painting, in the sense that it represented an open world—to that extent I thought, and I still believe, that my work in terms of its social impact does denote the possibility of an open society, of an open world, not of a closed institutional world.

This is a painting, oil on canvas, 127.3 cm wide by 335.4 cm high.

Now let’s listen to Day One by Barnett Newman, recorded at the Whitney Museum of American Art, in New York City, on 15 May 2017.

Waveform of the field recording.

That was Day One by Barnett Newman. I hope you enjoyed listening to it as much as I did.

For more information and links to things I’ve mentioned, please visit

Listening to Art is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


All web sites accessed as of date of publication.

de Antonio, Emile, dir. Painters Painting. 1972. YouTube video, 1:58:27.

Barnett Newman Foundation. “The Barnett Newman Foundation.” The Barnett Newman Foundation.

O’Neill, John P., ed. Barnett Newman: Selected Writings and Interviews. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990.

Shiff, Richard, Carol C. Mancusi-Ungaro and Heidi Colsman-Freyberger. Barnett Newman: A Catalogue Raisonné. New Haven CT: Yale University Press, 2004.

Whitney Museum of American Art. “Day One.” Whitney Museum of American Art.

Wikipedia, s.v. “Barnett Newman,”