In Augustus Vincent Tack’s final paintings in the 1930s and 1940s, he experimented with scale and mood, as reflected in Time and Timelessness of 1943-44. Time and Timelessness is a preparatory sketch for the final monumental mural work of his career, the fire curtain for George Washington University’s new Lisner Auditorium.
Tack described to Duncan Phillips the daunting challenges of creating a work on so large a scale. “There were several moments in its genesis,” he wrote, “when some obstacles seemed almost insurmountable.” The sweeping forms, nacreous colors, and baroque light of Time and Timelessness provide a dramatic visual corollary to the central themes of the work: the nature of space and time, and the meaning of human endeavor. Commenting on the work, Tack stated, “My mind naturally turned to the meaning of a university. How could the vital principle or soul of a university be expressed abstractly? A university – the center from which springs the expansion and development of human minds reaching out far into fields of astronomical proportions as well as into infinitesimally small ranges of microscopic discovery, and to find some symbol of creation in eternity – or of Time and Timelessness, and of the magnificent achievement of human intelligence, made in the image and likeness of God, was the purpose and the problem.”