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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

© The Estate of Eva Hesse. Hauser & Wirth Zürich London
American, born Germany, 1936 - 1970
Gouache, ink, watercolor, and graphite on paper

19 ½ x 25 ½ inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Museum purchase with funds provided by the
Caroline Wiess Law Accessions Endowment Fund

Arts of North America

German-born artist Eva Hesse immigrated with her family to the United States in 1939 to escape the Nazi regime. She studied at schools including the Pratt Institute and the Cooper Union in New York, and at the Yale University School of Art and Architecture. Hesse originally considered herself to be a painter, not turning to the sculpture for which she is now famous until the mid-1960s. Her early work emphasized the vibrant colors and biomorphic abstractions characteristic of first- and second-generation Abstract Expressionists.

After experimenting with the dark tones prevalent in Old Master drawings, she returned to her earlier style, as seen in this watercolor. Hesse made works on paper throughout her career, and Untitled is among her finest mid-career works. The composition displays complex, architectonic free-form abstractions, and it was executed at the pinnacle of a time when Hesse was known strictly as a painter. In 1964 and 1965, while on a year-long trip to Germany with her husband, sculptor Tom Doyle, Hesse began to create sculptures herself. During her brief mature period—before her death at age 34—Hesse continually experimented with new processes and materials in order to push the boundaries of art, moving beyond definitions of figuration or abstraction.