This website documents all the known drawings by Morris Louis.  The catalogue raisonné of drawings, The Drawings of Morris Louis, by Diane Upright [Headley] was published in 1979 and accompanied an exhibition organized by the National Collection of Fine Arts, a Smithsonian Institution (known today as the Smithsonian American Art Museum).  Refer to EXHIBITION HISTORY for more information about this exhibition.  The 519 drawings presented on this website reside in public and private collections.  Notably, 414 drawings are currently held by the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard Art Museums.  Other institutions that own Morris Louis drawings include The Baltimore Museum of Art; The Phillips Collection; Smithsonian American Art Museum; Walker Art Center; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; Tel Aviv Art Museum; and the National Gallery of Australia. 

In preparation for the publication of the 1979 catalogue, twenty-five sketchpads that belonged to the Estate of Morris Louis were dismantled to permit the photographing, exhibition, and proper storage of the individual works.  All pages were removed from each sketchpad and numbered in sequence from front to back.  In instances where the cover of the pad had been used for a drawing, it was assigned the first number in the group.  Sheets with drawings on both sides were assigned a single number with the suffix A given to the recto, and B given to the verso.  For example, D188A and D188B represent a single sheet with drawings on both sides.  

Estate drawings were embossed with a small seal containing the letters ML circumscribed by an oval.  This seal appears in the lower right corner of almost every drawing.  The exceptions represent instances in which it was later determined that the proper orientation of the drawing differed from that originally perceived, or a few cases in which the drawing was not embossed with the seal.  Any variations have been noted in the catalogue entries.

The following chart provides a concordance of the drawings (D1 - D503) that were assigned numbers during photographing.  The first column gives the number of the estate sketchpad or portfolio in which the drawing was located.  This sketchpad number is an inventory designation and has no other significance.  The numbers assigned to the drawings are shown in the second column.  The total number of drawings in each sketchpad is indicated in the third column.  Drawings on the recto and verso of a single sheet were counted separately.  Drawings dated by the artist are indicated in the fourth column.  The year is followed by the number of drawings in the sketchpad that bears that date.  For example, 2:1953 indicates that two drawings in the sketchpad were dated 1953 by the artist.  Certain inconsistencies occurred during the photographing and numbering procedure.  Each is explained under "Notes" which also includes other pertinent information about the drawings. 

Authentication

This website includes all paintings and drawings from the original print versions of the catalogues raisonnés by Diane Upright:  Morris Louis: The Complete Paintings, published in hard copy by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York, 1985; and The Drawings of Morris Louis, published in hard copy by the Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington DC, 1979. A few works that were authenticated after those publications were printed have also been included.  No paintings or drawings that appear on this site as of the original launch date of May 1, 2014 will be removed.

 

SKETCHPAD NUMBER

NUMBERS ASSIGNED TO DRAWINGS

NUMBER OF DRAWINGS IN SKETCHPAD

NUMBER OF DATED DRAWINGS

NOTES

 

None

D1, D2

2

2:1948

Louis gave these two drawings to their present owner in 1953. Each was selected from a different sketchpad.  The size and type of paper and the nature of the imagery suggest that one was removed from sketchpad 17 and the other sketchpad 18. 

2

D3-D27

25

None

This sketchpad was probably used in Florida (see notes for sketchpad 5). The horned animal that appears in several of these drawings also appears in D39, which is dated 1949, a likely date for this group. 

3

D28-D38

12

None

The imagery of many of these drawings is quite similar to that of D1 and D2, both of which are dated 1948, a likely date for this group.

None

D39

1

1:1949

See below, notes for sketchpad 5

None

D40

2

None

See below, notes for sketchpad 1.

None

D41

1

None

See below, notes for sketchpad 7.

1

D42-D46; D204-D214; (D40?)

16

(17?)

2:1953

The break in continuity of numbering resulted from an initial attempt to photograph together drawings from different sketchpads whose imagery was closely related.  It was soon perceived that the magnitude of the project made such a task impossible and the plan was abandoned. D40 had been removed from a sketchpad at an earlier date when it was given to its present owner.  The size and type of paper and the nature of the imagery strongly suggest that it originally belonged to this sketchpad.  Although two of the drawings are dated 1953, some of the pages are very similar to drawings dated 1949.  Louis may have used the tablet at two different times, or he may have reworked earlier drawings at a later date.

17

D47-D65

23

None

This sketchpad probably dates from about 1948, based upon comparison with drawings D1 and D2. Drawings D64 and D65 were looses pages found stored in this pad.

12

D66-D73

10

None

Only D72 was actually attached to this tablet; all others were loose sheets stored in it.  Both front and back covers were drawn on.  The back cover bears the identifying stamp of a New York art supply store.

18

D74-D118

50

None

D91-D118 were loose pages stored in this sketchpad.

23

D119-D136

18

None

In 1950 Louis was commissioned by the United States Public Health Services (PHS) to design a tuberculosis display.  The display was set up at a convention in San Francisco to which Louis accompanied his wife, who was then employed by the PHS.  During his visit Louis purchased this sketchpad and sketchpad 26, both of which bear the address of a San Francisco art supply store on their covers.  The drawings in both sketchpads are repetitions of a very few different images, most of which related to ideas introduced in the PHS commission designs.

26

D137-D155

19

None

See above, notes for sketchpad 23.

None

D156

1

None

This drawing was selected by Louis to hang in his home. 

22

D157-D177

21

None

 

25

D178-D186

9

None

  

21

D187-D203

34

None

 

1

D204-D214

11

2:1953

See above, notes for sketchpad 1.

4

D215-D232

18

11:1953

 

5

D233-D248; D39

18

1:1949

1:1953

This sketchpad was purchased in Miami, Florida, as indicated by an art supply store’s stamp on its cover.

  A pattern of tiny holes, apparently caused by worms, was found on each sheet; the number of holes increases from two in the cover and first four pages to eight holes in the last four pages.

  D39 had been removed from the pad at an earlier date when it was given to its present owner.  The presence of two worm hole and holes from the spiral ring binder, both unique to this pad, indicate that D39 belonged to it.  These facts were not known at the time of photographing, which accounts for the disparity in numbering.

  As is the case with sketchpad 1, this pad seems to have been used at two different times.

6

D250-D260; (D249?)

11

(12?)

7:1953

(8?)

The cover of sketchpad 6 is identical to that of sketchpad 5, although no identifying stamp is present and the spiral ring binder is a different type.  It seems likely that sketchpad 6 was also purchased in Miami.

  D249 had been removed at an earlier date; the holes from the binding and all other aspects indicate that it belonged to this sketchpad.

7

D261-D278; D41

20

8:1953

D41 was found as a loose page stored in this sketchpad.  It is not known when it was placed there or who did so.  It is possible that Louis was responsible, since its imagery is a likely source for the more freely rendered drawing D262.

  The disparity in numbering resulted from a decision to photograph and number D41 with a group of stylistically similar works.

8

D279-D288

10

4:1953

 

9

D289-D306

18

10:1953

 

11

D307-D344

38

None

D335-D344 were found as loose sheets stored in this sketchpad.  They are on the same type of tracing paper and display imagery quite similar to those of the attached sheets.

13

D345-D364

20

None

 

14

D365-D376

13

None

 

15

D377-D396

28

None

D396 is a smaller sheet that was stored in this sketchpad.

16

D397-D412

16

4:1953

 

19

D413-D427

16

None

D421-D427 were found as loose sheets stored in this sketchpad.

20

D428-D474

62

1:1953

Only D428-D445 were attached to the sketchpad.  All other sheets were loose, with the exception of D545-D460, which constituted a small sketchpad stored in the larger one.

24

D475-D493

19

None

D492 and D493 were found as loose sheets stored in this sketchpad. 

None

D494

1

None

This drawing belongs to a private collection; it was photographed and numbered with the estate drawings. 

10

D495-D503

10

1:1953

1:1940

1:1941

1:1953

For their protection this group of guoaches was stored in portfolio 10 by Louis’s widow.

 

 

Unless otherwise indicated, all of the drawings are on paper, unsigned and embossed with the Estate seal in the lower right corner.  Dimensions are in inches followed by centimeters, height preceding width, and are of the sheet size.  Inches are rounded off to the next highest one-sixteenth of an inch and centimeters are rounded off to the next highest millimeter.  

GO TO TOP