Heart of Darkness,

Sean Scully, American, born Ireland, 1945
Oil on canvas: three joined panels
243.8 x 365.8 cm (96 x 144 in.)
Acquired 1988
This canvas’s title, Heart of Darkness, refers to the novella first published in 1899 by Polish-born British author Joseph Conrad (1857–1924). Reflecting on the story, which depicts colonial exploitation in the Belgian Congo, Scully said, “Conrad writes that the heart of the twentieth century is black.” Sean Scully’s characteristic stripe paintings have a rugged, inelegant beauty and an intensely physical, almost sculptural, presence. He works on a large scale with colors that cannot be easily characterized, allowing strong underpainting to merge with the surfaces of his works. The wavering edges of his lushly painted bands structure imperfect compositions.