Jules OLITSKI, Prince Patutsky's command Enlarge 1 /1


Russia 1922 – United States of America 2007

Prince Patutsky's command 1966 Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

Primary Insc: no inscriptions
Dimensions: 418.2 h x 179.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1981
Accession No: NGA 81.367
Image rights: © Jules Olitski/VAGA. Licensed by Viscopy
  • the artist;
  • from whom bought by Henry Geldzahler, New York, 1967;
  • with André Emmerich Gallery, New York, 1974;
  • through whom bought by the Australian National Gallery, February 1981

In the early months of 1965 Olitski began to use a spray-gun to apply paint to his canvases. He had previously been using sponges and paint rollers to put down broad areas of colour, but found that overlapping layers of colour tended to neutralise each other. By spraying the paint Olitski preserved the richness and purity of colour and gained an expansive and seamless surface. In these paintings he continued and developed his compositional practice of confining incident to the periphery of the canvas, usually by defining an edge, or edges, with a stripe of paint or a line of pastel in a different colour.

During the winter of 1965-66 Olitski began to mask out areas of the painting along two or sometimes there sides during the painting process, thus creating borders like internal frames within the painting. He would also cut more than one work from the same role of sprayed canvas, using the process of stretching as a kind of editing to achieve the desired effect. Prince Patutsky's command, painted in the winter of 1965-66, is typical of this group of paintings, with its ghost-like border across the lower and left sides of the canvas. It was cut from the same stretch of sprayed canvas as the painting Unlocked (collection Robert Eichholz, Washington DC).1

Olitski used the name Patutsky in the titles of several of his paintings in the mid-1960s. He remembers being called 'Prince Patutsky' but his stepfather as a child, and believes that it was in reference to Sanislaw Felix Potocki (1752-1805).2 In the eighteenth century the Potocki family were among the most prominent 'republicans' opposing Kings Augustus II and Augustus III. Stanislaw Potocki dreamed of transforming Poland into a federal republic following the example of the United States. Olitski recalls that his stepfather's manner of calling him Prince Patutsky conjured up an image of 'aristocratic bearing, courtly manner, excessive fastidiousness'.3

Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.364.

  1. First noticed by Andrew Hudson, 'On Jules Ollitski's Paintings — and Some Changes of View', Art International, vol. 12, no. 1, January 1968, pp.31-6, p.32.
  2. Jules Olitski, correspondence with the Gallery, February 1984.
  3. ibid.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra