Ralph Coburn, American, 1923 - 2018



Oil on canvas

Canvas: 63 in. (160 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through a gift from Evelyn A. and William B. Jaffe, Class of 1964H, by exchange, the Robert J. Strasenburgh II 1942 Fund, the Claire and Richard P. Morse 1953 Fund, the Julia L. Whittier Fund, the Anonymous Fund #144, the Contemporary Art Fund, the Guernsey Center Moore 1904 Memorial Fund, the Olivia H. Parker and John O. Parker '58 Acquisition Fund, and the Stephen and Constance Spahn '63 Acquisition Fund

© Estate of Ralph Coburn, image courtesy David Hall Gallery, LLC Wellesley, MA



Place Made: United States, North America


20th century

Object Name


Research Area


Not on view


Starting in 1949/50 I started making works that went beyond . . . [Jean] Arp’s “according to chance” concept; I began creating works according to the concept of choice. --Ralph Coburn

Coburn first explored the intersection of chance and composition while studying art in Paris during the early 1950s. Surrealist Jean Arp shared with the young artist ideas about “automatism,” the goal of drawing without making conscious decisions, and embracing random actions, such as dropping cut forms onto a surface, to create the arrangement for his art. Coburn moved on soon, however, and derived the composition of this painting from a small study in which he collaged cut paper shapes organized by choice.

From the 2023 exhibition The Painter's Hand: U.S. Abstraction since 1950, curated by John Stomberg, Virginia Rice Kelsey 1961s Director

Course History

Studio Art 25.01, Painting I, Daniele Genadry, Summer 2023

Philosophy 1.11, Art: True, Beautiful, Nasty, John Kulvicki, Summer 2023

Philosophy 1.11, Art: True, Beautiful, Nasty, John Kulvicki, Summer 2023

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Francine A'Ness, Summer 2023

Studio Art 15.04, Drawing I, Enrico Riley, Fall 2023

Studio Art 17.08, Digital Drawing, Karol Kawiaka, Fall 2023

Studio Art 25.01, Painting I, Jen Caine, Fall 2023

Writing 5.05, Image and Text, Becky Clark, Fall 2023

Writing 5.06, Image and Text, Becky Clark, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

The Painter's Hand: U.S. Abstraction since 1950, William B. Jaffe and Evelyn A. Jaffe-Hall Galleries, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 3-December 16, 2023.


Private collection; David Hall Fine Art, Wellesley, MA (as broker); sold to present collection, 2019.

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