Jay DeFeo (American, 1929-1989)
Not on View

Jay DeFeo was one of the cornerstones of the San Francisco Bay Area art scene beginning in the 1950s. She is best known for The Rose, to which she devoted herself exclusively from 1958–66. After completion, The Rose was shown at the Pasadena Art Museum in 1968. DeFeo continued to make art work and maintain an active studio practice throughout the latter half of the twentieth century until she succumbed to lung cancer in 1989.

Taking its title from Greek mythology, Daphne appears to grow abstracted branches and roots before the viewers’ very eyes as thousands of delicate long strokes of oil, pencil, and charcoal reach the entire length of this vertical composition.

The drawing on paper is mounted to a larger, black-painted canvas. This layering creates a surface within a surface, but also plays with the positive and negative space of the art work. The tear in the bottom right corner is an intentional allusion to the fact that part of the composition is comprised of paper.

The surface takes on an uneven veneer because of the materials used. DeFeo believed that texture and palette have an inverse relationship, and here in Daphne, this viewpoint is evidenced in the way that only tones of black and white pigments are obsessively layered. Rather than adding color for shading or decoration, she built up surface material to achieve tonal gradations.


  • Artist Name: Jay DeFeo (American, 1929-1989)
  • Title: Daphne
  • Date: 1958
  • Medium: Oil, pencil and charcoal on paper mounted on canvas
  • Dimensions: comp: 106 x 42 in. (269.2 x 106.7 cm); sheet: 125-3/4 x 47-3/4 in. (318.8 x 121.3 cm)
  • Credit Line: Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Mr. Sam Francis
  • Accession Number: P.1965.008
  • Copyright: © 2017 The Jay DeFeo Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Object Information

Sam Francis, Santa Monica, gift 1965 to;
Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, 1965-1975;
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, 1975.

16 Americans

  • Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY), 1959-12-16 to 1960-02-14

Nine California Artists

  • Pasadena, Pasadena Art Museum, 1966-07-06 to 1966-12-02

Radical Past: Contemporary Art and Music in Pasadena, 1960-1974

  • Norton Simon Museum, 1999-02-07 to 1999-06-06
  • Armory Center for the Arts, 1999-02-07 to 1999-04-11
  • Art Center College of Design (Pasadena, Calif.), 1999-02-07 to 1999-04-25
  • Sixteen Americans, 1959, p. 12
  • Armory Center for the Arts/Art Center College of Design, Radical Past: Contemporary Art & Music in Pasadena, 1960-1974, 1999, p. 33

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