Oil on linen canvas, circa 1957. 1016x1270 mm; 40x50 inches. Signed (twice) and titled in oil, upper left verso.
Provenance: gifted from the artist; Wilbert C. and Irene M. Petty, Washington, DC; the estate of Irene M. Petty, Silver Spring, MD (2005).
Exhibited: Paintings by Hale Woodruff, Bertha Schaefer Gallery, New York, September 15 - October 4, 1957. This was the third of Woodruff's solo exhibitions at the Bertha Schaefer Gallery in the 1950s which established his New York career.
Dragon is a dynamic Abstract Expressionist painting from the mid-career of Hale Woodruff. This exciting, gestural painting shows Woodruff's continued evolution as an abstract painter through the late 1950s. A significant member of the New York School, Woodruff, like his friends Charles Alston and Norman Lewis, often blurred the line between figuration and abstraction. His 1950s paintings often developed into forms associated with mythological figures or natural phenomena, figurative elements incorporated within the abstract idiom and with shared universal qualities. Other examples include Blue Intrusion, 1958, in the collection of Grey Art Gallery, New York University, and Galaxy, 1959 in the Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries. In Dragon, Woodruff uses some of his most daring and slashing marks, clearly changing the orientation of the canvas, and with many different approaches, layering thick and thin passages of paint. Out of a maelstrom of color and brushtrokes, a looming dark figure, the dragon, appears.