Artwork Information

  • Title:

    Terror in the Dawn

  • Artist:

    Kupferman, Lawrence

  • Artist Bio:

    American, 1909–1982

  • Date:


  • Medium:

    Gouache, ink, and wax on paper

  • Dimensions:

    27 1/2 x 20 3/4 in.

  • Credit Line:

    Wichita Art Museum, Roland P. Murdock Collection

  • Object Number:


  • Display:

    Not Currently on Display

About the Artwork

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, and trained at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School, Kupferman gained critical attention in the late 1930s and early 40s for his prints, and then in the late 40s and early 50s for his abstract paintings in watercolor. In his transition from one medium to another, Kupferman also changed styles.

In his earlier work, in the print medium of drypoint, Kupferman executed expressive images of American architecture to symbolize romantic ideas of time, decay and loss. However, during the 1940s, Kupferman, like many other American artists of the period, responded to the concepts and non-representational style of the radically innovative Abstract Expressionist movement led by American artist Jackson Pollock.

Kupferman spent his summers in Provincetown where he and his daughter roamed the beaches collecting seashells. After observing the forms of shells, seaweed, and waves he studied scientific texts on sea life. The artist found watercolor to be the perfect medium to convey ideas of plant and animal life in a watery environment.

From this initial naturalistic impulse, Kupferman developed an ever more subjective and abstract orientation in his art. He continued to paint in a non-representational style, which communicated a personal and inner vision through the emotive suggestions of gestural movement, accidental form, organic shapes, and pure color sensations.

Some insight into the WAM painting, titled Terror in the Dawn, is revealed in a statement made by the artist in 1948 about why he chose to paint in an abstract style: “The important things today are first chaos, murder, rape and war in the world; and second, the spirit of scientific inquiry, the interest in atoms and cellular growth.” Along with other abstract expressionists of the period, Kupferman believed that a realistic style was inadequate to express the deepest truths of human existence, universal truths, which were not available to the senses.