Barnett Newman, Gandhi, and the Aesthetics of Nonviolence

Stephanie Chadwick

Assistant Professor, Art History, Department of Art, College of Fine Arts and Communications, Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas. Email:

Volume 8, Number 4, 2016 I Full Text PDF

DOI: 10.21659/rupkatha.v8n4.02

Received November 19, 2016; Revised November 25, 2016; Accepted December 15, 2016; Published January 14, 2017


Taking the painting Be I by famous American Abstract Expressionist painter Barnett Newman as a starting point, this paper explores relationships between Mohandas K. Gandhi’s aesthetic life and an emerging aesthetic of nonviolence in the post WWII era. A nonviolent aesthetic is considered in the painting and in relation to two key photographs featured in the exhibition “Experiments with Truth: Gandhi and Images of Nonviolence” at the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas from October 3, 2014 – February 1, 2015: Margaret Bourke-White’s now iconic photograph of Gandhi Spinning and an anonymous photograph of Gandhi’s Earthly Belongings published in a 1954 book by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Govt. of India, 1954.

 Keywords: Gandhi, Newman, Bourke-White, aesthetics, asceticism, nonviolence

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