Paul Klee

Klee's stripe paintings reflect his deep interest in theories of form and colour in art. Klee is widely praised for his ability to explore formalism without sacrificing a deeply personal, idiosyncratic style, and these stripes, for all their geometric precision, retain the sense of childlike glee that inflects all his work.


Dan Flavin

Flavin is most famous for his minimalist light arrangements that, in their use of neon, evoke the garishness and noise of American capitalism, but just as soon calm it with their zen simplicity. Between the ages of 14 and 18, Flavin studied to become a Catholic priest, and there's something religious about the serenity of these pieces.


Gerhard Richter

Gerhard Richter

The exhibition in which Richter introduced his stripe works was ironically titled Painting 2012, ironic because there was not a single painting in it. Instead, Richter fed digital photographs of his '90s 'scrape' paintings through his computer, and deconstructed them using software to form these light speed blurs.


Daniel Buren

Riley uses variations in her stripes' width to create dizzying visual effects. By contrast, Buren has been using the same 8.7cm wide stripes more or less exclusively since he produced his first stripe painting in the '60s. As a consequence his stripes are instantly recognisable and city governments around the world have exploited their public currency by using them to adorn their municipal buildings, trains stations and public streets. Whilst Riley's stripes express infinite variety, Buren uses them as a tool for iconic repetition.

Mahoning, Franz Kline, 1956

Franz Kline

A prominent abstract expressionist in the '50s, Kline believed that the ultimate test of a painting's quality is whether or not it conveys the painter's emotions. It's difficult to know what he might have thought of Riley's work – the placidity and coolness of her stripes might well, after all, offer a window onto her soul – but what's for sure is that Kline's stripes carry a quite different emotional weight. Whilst Riley's stripes are bright and delicate, Kline's are dark and intense; whilst Riley arranges hers with mathematical precision, Kline splays his across the canvas with violence and aggression.

Barbara Hepworth, Orpheus Maquette, 1956

Barbara Hepworth

Hepworth's sculptures are often knitted together by angular arrangements of wire and the sharpness of these wire stripes contrasts with her sculptures' organic forms. Whilst Riley's compositions play stripes against stripes, Hepworth blends stripes with other shapes in order to create suggestive formal contrasts.

Juan Miro, Nocturne, 1940

Joan Miró

Whilst Miró doesn't use stripes as such, he is a master of the line. The undulating swoops of his black lines set his canvases in motion, whilst at the same time providing a sense of formal unity by tracing lines between the free floating shapes.

Bridget Riley

Though her work is abstract, the optical experiences obtained through viewing her work seem surprisingly familiar. During her childhood, when she lived in Cornwall, she formed an acute responsiveness to natural phenomena. In particular, the effects of light and color in the landscape. Though her mature work does not proceed from observation, it is nevertheless connected with the experience of nature. Of her paintings, she has commented: 'the eye can travel over the surface in a way parallel to the way it moves over nature. It should feel caressed and soothed, experience frictions and ruptures, glide and drift…One moment there will be nothing to look at and the next second the canvas seems to refill, to be crowded with visual events.' This parallel relation between Riley's art and nature has underpinned the development of her work, coloring the way it forms both an exploration and a celebration of a fundamental human experience: sight.

[Patrick Heron ‘Horizontal Stripe Painting : November 1957 - January 1958’, 1957–8 © The estate of Patrick Heron]

Patrick Heron - Horizontal Stripe Painting : November 1957 - January 1958

Patrick Heron

Heron was a critic and painter who championed an approach to painting that assessed quality according to such formal values as the flatness of a composition and colour. Of his stripe paintings he wrote, ‘The reason why the stripes sufficed ... was precisely that they were so very uncomplicated as shapes ... the emptier the general format was, the more exclusive the concentration upon the experiences of colour itself.’ Heron resisted the total abandoning of subject matter and even such works as this have been seen in relation to landscape, the horizontal bands and colours perhaps suggesting the horizon at sunset. 

Sean Scully

Sean Scully has moved steadily over the past three decades to his current position in the highest rank of painters working in the abstract tradition. The recent American touring exhibition Wall of Light, which concluded to very positive reviews at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is currently being succeeded by a major touring show in Europe. Scully began painting in the late 1960s and early 1970s amid the dominance of Op Art in Britain. He then moved to America, where, after five years of struggle, he found his painterly voice in the stripe. Scully has relentlessly pursued the possibilities offered by his exploration of colored stripes, always remaining true to his assertion that "the stripe is a signifier of modernism." The Hood's exhibition explores Scully's work since the early 1970s and culminates with the first showing in America of the artist’s beautiful series Holly, made in memory and in honor of his mother. Along with over twenty large oil paintings, a small selection of photographs demonstrates Scully's fascination with the architectural structures of our built environment, the inspiration of so much in his abstract paintings.

Concorde, Walden I and Walden II

Tom Phillips

Tom Phillips is an artist whose work is fuelled by several persistent preoccupations, expressed through an even larger number of formats. These include painting (both figurative and abstract), opera (composer, librettist, set designer), concrete poetry and ornamental forms of writing, sculpture and site-specific designs (mosaic, tapestry, wire frame objects). He has also taken on several para-artistic roles – critic, curator, committee chairman for the Royal Academy, translator - all of which he has folded back into his art.

Paul Smith