Clyfford Still is America's most important, most significant, and most daring artist. This painter, pursuing a course independent of the conventional apparatus of art dealers and galleries, almost never exhibits except under museum auspices. For these reasons a Clyfford Still exhibition is a major event in the art world, and a book on Clyfford Still is a major event in the world of publishing. The present volume, which records the 1979–80 exhibition of seventy-nine Still paintings, dating from 1942 to 1978, at The Metropolitan Museum of Art—the largest exhibition of his work ever held—is the most comprehensive book on Still's work and thus an important document of twentieth-century art.
Although Still has always kept aloof from the stereotyping nomenclature of schools and movements, he has had a powerful impact on contemporary art. His monumental canvases—bold forms saturated with intense color—are of surpassing scale and power. It is easy to understand why Still prefers the extended coverage that is generally possible in a museum environment: his works are charged with a sustaining energy that relates them to one another over the almost forty years that their creation spans, and when viewed seriatim they convey a transcendent narrative quality.
Each of the seventy-nine paintings in the Metropolitan Museum's exhibition is reproduced here as a full-page or fold-out color-plate and is fully documented. Many other major works by Still are illustrated in black and white. Notes by the artist, selected letters from his files, and a biographical outline are accompanied by documentary photographs. The book contains a preface by Philippe de Montebello, director of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and an enlightening introduction by the eminent art critic Katharine Kuh.