Tack's mystical and transcendental vision reached its culmination in a cycle of twelve lunette-shaped paintings, including Balance, that he created between 1928 and 1931 for the Music Room of the museum. The series forms an important chapter in the history of The Phillips as well as in the history of abstract painting in this country, and the artist considered it his crowning achievement.
Tack's endeavors as a muralist and decorator, launched in 1900 and culminating in his murals for the Nebraska State Capitol in 1928, encouraged him to develop a muralist's conception of painting in which compositions unfold through architectural space, encompass lofty themes, and possess a monumental scale. With their arched lunettes and gilded architectural borders, these paintings represent the final flowering of the Beaux-Arts tradition of the American Renaissance. However, Tack's abstracted and fragmented forms and his use of the Western landscape represent a striking departure from traditional symbolism and treatment.
In 1928 Phillips realized his dream of having a room decorated by Tack, choosing the museum's lower gallery (now the Music Room) for the series. The decorative series was part of the collector’s plan to prepare the room for public use as an art library or reception room. The space, which had irregular proportions, dark wainscoting, and a window transept, presented challenges to the artist. According to Phillips, the room—which he referred to as the "Hall of Cosmic Conceptions"—was meant to invite the viewer to contemplate universal emotions and the underlying unity of life and art. Through this overarching theme, Tack synthesized a confluence of sources, including Catholic mysticism, Neo-Platonism, and aesthetic formalism.
The titles, such as Balance, outline a complex interrelated program; as Balance was designed as part of the west wall, each work has their place within the visual and thematic scheme of the room. Balance is a painting that forms an orchestrated interrelationship with other earlier works in the series, including includes Order and Rhythm. This trio was to be flanked by two compositions symbolic of the limits of time and space, Outposts of Time I and II, 1929. While some paintings in the series were inspired by photographs of rocky desert landscapes, Balance is a more figurative composition, signifying that it was derived from Tack’s earlier work, The Crowd (1921-22).
Balance, Order, and Rhythm are unified in their repeating curves and complementary rhythms, underscoring their meaning as abstractions that harmonize life and art. Saturated primary colors and labored surface treatment are typical of this group; Tack burnished the surfaces with a roller dipped in ocher or other neutrally colored paint. To achieve additional surface effects in Balance, he added sand and other granular particles to the paint.
The Music Room panels won Tack recognition and visibility unprecedented in his career. In 1930 Phillips wrote Tack, "I cannot tell you how many people have simply been made over by the experience of that room," "...[V]isitors...become reverential and silent...under the influence of your art." In 1934 Tack wrote to his patron: "I consider this conception my magnum opus. It may never be carried further, but it is complete. It is in a sense cosmic—a poem on Life itself."