MELVILLE, 1961

oil on canvas
72 x 60 IN.
(182.9 x 152.4 cm.)
Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois. Gift of the estates of Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch, 2014

In the early 1960s Indiana created a series of “literary paintings,” important both as examples of the homages found throughout his oeuvre, and as early paintings showcasing his stylized visual language. These seminal works, which pay tribute to key American literary figures, exemplify the artist’s interest in the written word, combining literary passages with signature design elements such as geometric shapes and intense colors. Indiana’s earliest literary paintings, exhibited in his first New York solo exhibition, held at the Stable Gallery in 1962, were inspired by the writings of three authors of the American Renaissance, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman and Herman Melville.

Melville is one of three works inspired by Melville’s novel Moby-Dick; the other two are the painting The Melville Triptych (1961) and the herm Ahab (1962). Melville addresses the metaphysical aspects of the novel, specifically Ahab’s outcries against cataclysmic odds, an ecstatic moment that was followed by his demise soon after. The painting utilizes a triangular form inside of a circle, and lines from the novel’s 120th chapter are incorporated into both. The effect is such that it causes the eye to move back and forth, from turning through the circle to the more stable form of the triangle, an unsettling effect echoing the precariousness of Ahab’s situation.

Medium

Decade

View

Clear Filters
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
UNTITLED

UNTITLED

1945
TECH

TECH

1945
500

500

1945
BEAN BUD

BEAN BUD

1945
MENE MENE TEKEL

MENE MENE TEKEL

1955–56/1989
HUB

HUB

1957/2005
SOURCE I

SOURCE I

1959
THE SLIPS

THE SLIPS

1959–1960
SUN AND MOON

SUN AND MOON

1959–1960
FRENCH ATOMIC BOMB

FRENCH ATOMIC BOMB

1959–1960
THE SWEET MYSTERY

THE SWEET MYSTERY

1959–1962
FOUR

FOUR

1959–1962/1972
TWO GOLDEN ORBS

TWO GOLDEN ORBS

1959/2001
GINKGO

GINKGO

1960
RA

RA

1960
SOUL

SOUL

1960
OWL

OWL

1960
ORB

ORB

1960
MOON

MOON

1960
M

M

1960
GE

GE

1960
WALL OF CHINA

WALL OF CHINA

1960–1961
ELECTI

ELECTI

1960–1961
MARINE WORKS

MARINE WORKS

1960–1962
MATE

MATE

1960–1962
TWO

TWO

1960–1962
JEANNE D'ARC

JEANNE D'ARC

1960–1962
BAR

BAR

1960–1962
ZIG

ZIG

1960–1962
LAW

LAW

1960–1962
AHAB

AHAB

1960–1962
STAR

STAR

1960–1962
WOMB

WOMB

1960–1962
CUBA

CUBA

1960–1962
HOLE

HOLE

1960–1962
BALLYHOO

BALLYHOO

1961
HARDROCK

HARDROCK

1961
SLIP

SLIP

1961
DOWN

DOWN

1962
UP

UP

1962
GRASS

GRASS

1962
FOR

FOR

1962
EAT/DIE

EAT/DIE

1962
HUG

HUG

1962
HUB

HUB

1962
EAT

EAT

1962
CHIEF

CHIEF

1962
DIE

DIE

1962/1984
GEM

GEM

1962/1984
The X-5

The X-5

1963
COLUMN LOVE

COLUMN LOVE

1963–1964
COLUMN EAT

COLUMN EAT

1963–1964
MOTHER AND FATHER

MOTHER AND FATHER

1963–1966
FLAGELLANT

FLAGELLANT

1963–1969
LOVE

LOVE

1964
LOVE

LOVE

1964
ONE

ONE

1964–1965
TWO

TWO

1964–1965
THREE

THREE

1964–1965
FOUR

FOUR

1964–1965
FIVE

FIVE

1964–1965
SEVEN

SEVEN

1964–1965
EXPLODING NUMBERS

EXPLODING NUMBERS

1964–1966
THE ELECTRIC EAT

THE ELECTRIC EAT

1964–2007
MY MOTHER

MY MOTHER

1964/1998
MY FATHER

MY FATHER

1964/1998
DILLINGER

DILLINGER

1964/1998
CALL ME ISHMAEL

CALL ME ISHMAEL

1964/1998
CALL ME INDIANA

CALL ME INDIANA

1964/1998
BOB'S COLUMN

BOB'S COLUMN

1964/1998
SIX

SIX

1965
EIGHT

EIGHT

1965
NINE

NINE

1965
ZERO

ZERO

1965
ALABAMA

ALABAMA

1965
MODEL T

MODEL T

1966
FLORIDA

FLORIDA

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966
666

666

1966
LOVE

LOVE

1966–1999
THE ELECTRIC LOVE

THE ELECTRIC LOVE

1966–2000
LOVE WALL

LOVE WALL

1966–2006
LOVE

LOVE

1967
APOGEE

APOGEE

1970
ART

ART

1970
ART

ART

1972–2001
AHAVA

AHAVA

1977
MONARCHY

MONARCHY

1981
FIVE

FIVE

1984
MARS

MARS

1990
ICARUS

ICARUS

1992
EVE

EVE

1997
AMOR

AMOR

1998–2006
COMET

COMET

2000
AI

AI

2002
AI

AI

2002