This abstract work by Balcomb Greene uses bold color and black lines

Balcomb Greene

American, 1904–1990

The King is Blacker than the Queen, 1945

Oil on canvas

46 x 36 inches

Signed lower right



Born in Milville, New York, Greene studied psychology in Vienna, philosophy at Syracuse University, English literature at Columbia University, painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris, and art history at New York University. He taught at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh while maintaining his painting career. Greene’s first solo shows were in Paris in 1937, and in 1961 the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his work. A fire in his New York studio in 1941 destroyed many of his early paintings.

In 1937, as the founding president of the American Abstract Artists group, Greene called for an art that was free of narrative and the political content that characterized the work of many American scene painters of that era. Greene painted The King Is Blacker than the Queen using bolder colors and a freer hand than he had brought to his earlier, more precise works from the 1930s. With a suggestion of figural representation and narrative, the painting is a paradox of sorts, combining the steady lines of his earlier work with more boldly applied areas of impasto. Although Greene would continue to incorporate representational elements into his work of the 1940s, he never abandoned his commitment to abstract art.

This abstract work by Balcomb Greene uses bold color and black lines