Anne Truitt - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Tuesday, November 15, 2022 | Phillips
  • "Truitt’s basic idiom, the upright wall or column transformed into an utterly nonfunctional presence, a physical object whose every aspect (its color, dimensions, surface, depth, front, back, and sides) is designed to produce a quandary as to the nature of its presence as an experiential thing."
    —Anne M. Wagner

    In Anne Truitt’s seminal Dryads from 1971-1975, the artist confronts us with four seemingly monochromatic pillars made of painted wood. Each is named for a season—black for winter, pink for spring, green for summer and orange for autumn—together symbolizing the cyclical nature of our year, ranging from coolest to warmest in hue. 


    One of the last in the series made in 1975, Autumn Dyrad is, like its sister works, reminiscent of a tree standing in nature, at once intimidating and inviting. Upon closer inspection, the autumnal colors of deep orange and dark mauve morph into seemingly different hues as one’s eyes move from top to bottom, emphasizing the illusion of solid color and its ability to “disturb the boundaries between image and object, thing and event.”i Simultaneously employing a Minimalist form and a daring palette, Truitt’s Autumn Dryad reflects the artist’s deep connection to color and nature’s elements. The Dryad series truly embodies Truitt’s sculptural practice at its peak, through their interrogation of a three-dimensional form’s ability to express a deeper meaning than what meets the eye.



    A colorful minimalist 


    Suggesting a departure from the industrial traditions of Minimalism and its leading male artists such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre, Autumn Dryad is made not of steel or aluminum, but of wood and acrylic paint. Through her methodical process, Truitt explored the notions of interiority and form by painting, sanding, and repainting layers of acrylic onto her wooden surfaces to achieve their unique sheen and hue. This technique and choice of materials along with her use of vivid, primary colors distinguished her from her contemporaries and reflected her effort to evoke human emotions. Opting for seasonal colors of saturated orange and rich purple, the two tones seem to blend into one another at their juncture points, creating an endless stream of varying intensities. Through light and shadow, the Dryad recreates the feeling of being in nature, reflecting the light of the interior space it inhabits in the same way our eyes adjust to the changing time of day. Truitt’s sculptures expertly use color to transform “the constancy of structure so very strikingly that it seems to offer a primer on what hue can do.” The result emphasizes and elevates the abstract nature of both the pillar and the natural world it represents.ii


    Anne Truitt’s four Dryads exhibited at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. in 2009–2010. Image: © Bridgeman Art Library, Artwork: © Estate of Anne Truitt/The Bridgeman Art Library

    "... by virtue of their titles, the Dryads invite us to see the pillar’s volume... as a concentration or intensification of Nature... They are a tree. The simplicity of the upright cedes to the changing seasons of the imagined forest, and an all-too-human romance with the ‘magic of nature’ stands waiting in the wings."
    —Anne Wagner

    Standing alone like a tree in the woods, Autumn Dryad is like “a body in which nature and woman are one.”iii In fact, the word “dryad” refers to a female figure in Greek mythology who inhabits a concentrated form of nature, typically a tree. By referencing this in the series’ title, Truitt connects the works to a distinctly feminine view of the world. In the artist’s celebrated 2009-2010 retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection, all four Dryads were exhibited together alongside two other pillars. The installation of the works in conversation with one another reflects their ties through color and form while also highlighting their seasonal differences. Evading the categories of painting and sculpture, the Dryads at once form a cohesive set, while simultaneously allowing each pillar to stand out through its distinct, seasonal color variations.


    Collector’s Digest

    • Of the four seasonal Dryads, two are in museum collections: Summer Dryad, 1971, The National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C., and Winter Dryad, 1973, The Boca Raton Museum of Art. Spring Dryad, 1975, was part of Phillips’ Modern and Contemporary Day Sale, June 2021.

    i Anne M. Wagner, “Disarming Time,” Artforum, January 2010, p. 155.
    ii Ibid.
    iii Ibid.

    • Provenance

      André Emmerich Gallery, New York
      C. Grimaldis Gallery, Baltimore
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992

    • Exhibited

      New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Anne Truitt: Recent Work, April 12–May 15, 1975
      Charlottesville, University of Virginia Art Museum, Anne Truitt: Sculpture and Painting, October 17–November 19, 1976, no. 4, p. 13
      Purchase, State University of New York, Neuberger Museum, Anne Truitt: Eight Sculptures, July 6–November 2, 1986
      New York, André Emmerich Gallery, Anne Truitt: Sculpture, 1961-1991, May 15–June 28, 1991, n.p. (illustrated)
      Baltimore Museum of Art, Anne Truitt: A Life in Art, February 5–April 19, 1992
      Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection, October 8, 2009–January 3, 2010, pl. 25, p. 168 (illustrated, p. 89)

    • Literature

      Brooks Adams, "Solid Color," Art in America, October 1991, p. 113 (illustrated on the cover)
      Anne M. Wagner, "Disarming Time: The Art of Anne Truitt," Artforum, January 2010, p. 155 (illustrated, p. 154)

Property from a Prominent American Collection


Autumn Dryad

signed and dated "Truitt 9 Feb '75" on the underside
acrylic on wood
76 3/4 x 13 x 8 in. (194.9 x 33 x 20.3 cm)
Executed in 1975.

Full Cataloguing

$400,000 - 600,000 

Sold for $567,000

Contact Specialist

Amanda Lo Iacono
Global Managing Director and Specialist, Head of Evening Sale, New York
+1 212 940 1278

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+1 212 940 1206


20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 15 November 2022