Modern Minute: Augustus Tack, "Ad Astra" (1930-31)

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Modern Minute: Augustus Tack, "Ad Astra" (1930-31)

Kathleen Hutton of Reynolda House discusses Augustus Tack's Ad Astra, on view in the Museum's exhibition Reynolda Moderns

Modern Minute: "Ad Astra" Augustus Tack

Reynolda House is grateful for the generous support of Reynolda Moderns from media sponsor Our State magazine.

[TRANSCRIPT] Kathleen Hutton, Reynolda House: Hutton Augustus Tack, “Ad Astra” 1930-31


On a 1928 trip to Death Valley, California, the painter Augustus Vincent Tack was fascinated by the play of light and shadow that he observed on the valley floor and he took lots of snapshots. Later, he had these blown up to 10 to 15 times their original size and he used a method called “pouncing” to transfer the outlines from the photograph to the surface of the canvas. He then painted on the canvas with beautiful colors - turquoises, cobalts, pinks - and he also mixed together yellow, ochre, and white, and as a final touch he brayered all over the surface of the highly textured canvas and deposited flecks of gold.

He was called a spiritual abstractionist and he said of compositions like these that the colors and the forms were an essential rhythm and that while they were decorative they had deep, mystical meaning that stimulated the imagination. These forms may remind you of different things, like Hokusai’s “Great Wave," they look like ocean waves or maybe a mountain peak or clouds at sunset. This paradoxical nature was seen by the critics at the time as well, who said it may really look like a sea, but it's mountains, it didn’t really matter. The title “Per aspera ad astra” is a latin exhortation, it means “a bitter pathway to the stars” and it suggests that the cost of ultimate triumph may be very bitter.



Thanks for this and much more that you give . You are so easy to work with too!lynda and gerald

Thanks Lynda and Gerald! Great to hear. Definitely more to come from the Museum's Digital Wing. Are you all coming to Community Day? The Matt Kendrick Trio is performing a song inspired by Augustus Tak's painting!

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