Reinhardt’s 12 rules for pure art

  1. No texture. Texture is naturalistic or mechanical and is a vulgar quality, especially pigment texture or impasto. Palette knifing, canvas-stabbing, paint scumbling and other action techniques are unintelligent and to be avoided. No accidents or automatism.
  2. No brushwork or calligraphy. Handwriting, hand-working and hand-jerking are personal and in poor tastye. No signature or trademarking. “Brushwork should be invisible.” “One should never let the influence of evil demons gain control of the brush.”
  3. No sketching or drawing. Everything, where to begin and where to end, should be worked out in the mind beforehand. “In painting the idea should exist in the mind before the brush is taken up.” No line or outline. “Madmen see outlines and therefore they draw them.” A fine is a figure, a “square is a face.” No shading or streaking.
  4. No forms. “The finest has no shape.” No figure or fore- or background. No volume or mass, no cylinder, sphere or cone, or cube or boogie-woogie. No push or pull. “No shape or substance.”
  5. No design. “Design is everywhere.”
  6. No colors. “Color blinds.” “Colors are an aspect of appearance and so only of the surface.” Colors are barbaric, unstable, suggest life, “cannot be completely controlled,” and “should be concealed.” Colors are a “distracting embellishment.” No white. “White is a color and all colors.” White is “antiseptic and not artistic, appropriate and pleasing for kitchen fixtures, and hardly the medium for expressing -truth and beauty.” White on white is “a transition from pigment to light” and “a screen for the projection of light” and “moving” pictures.
  7. No light. No bright or direct light in or over the painting. Dim, late afternoon absorbent twilight is best outside. No chiaroscuro, “the malodorant reality of craftsmen, beg- gars, topers with rags and wrinkles.”
  8. No space. Space should be empty, should not project, and should not be flat. “The painting should be behind the picture frame.” The frame should isolate and protect the painting from its surroundings. Space divisions within the painting should not be seen.
  9. No time. “Clock-time or man’s time is inconsequential.” There is no ancient or modern, no past or future in art. “A work of art is always present.” The present is the future of the past, not the past of the future. “Now and long ago are one.”
  10. No size or scale. Breadth and depth of thought and feeling in art have no relation to physical size. Large sizes are aggressive, positivist, intemperate, venal, and graceless.
  11. No movement. “Everything else is on the move. Art should be still.”
  12. No object, no subject, no matter. No symbols. images, or signs. Neither pleasure nor paint. No mindless working or mindless non-working. No chess-playing.

Supplementary regulations to be followed are: No easel or palette. Low, flat, sturdy benches work well. Brushes should be new, clean, flat, even, one-inch wide, and strong. “If the heart is upright, the brush is firm.” No noise. “The brush should pass over the surface lightly and smoothly” and silently. No rubbing or scraping. Paint should be permanent, free of impurities, mixed into and stored in jars. The scent should be “pure spirits of turpentine, unadulterated and freshly, distilled.” “The glue should be as clear and clean as possible.” Canvas is better than silk or paper, and linen is better than cotton. There should be no shine in the finish. Gloss reflects and relates to the changing surroundings. “A picture is finished when all traces of the means used to bring about the end have disappeared.” The fine-art studio should have a “raintight roof” and be twenty-five feet wide and thirty feet long, with extra space for storage and sink. Paintings should be stored away and not continually looked at. The ceiling should be twelve feet high. The studio should be separate from the rest of the school.

Ad Reinhardt. Excerpts from “Twelve Rules for a New Academv” (1953), in ArtNews 56. no. 3 (May 1957): 37-38. 56; reprinted in Barbara Rose, ed., Art-as-Art: The Selected Writings of Ad Reinhardt (New York: Viking, 1975). 203-7.

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