The boldly silhouetted oranges bursting with vivid color are in direct contrast to the thick black surface, provoking a passionate and powerful visual response in the viewer. The sense of drama in Sultan's works comes from his early interest in the theater, which he combines with his inspiration from other art movements, such as Abstract Expressionism, Color Field painting, and minimalism. As part of the return to figuration in contemporary art in the 1980s, Sultan abstracts, simplifies, and stylizes this representation of painted oranges against a background made of tar and oil. His unorthodox use of these industrial materials symbolizes American industry, reinforced by his incorporation of vinyl tiles taken from office and factory floors. Looking at art from the past for inspiration, Sultan struck upon the traditional still life for his subject matter, with his choice of oranges as a twist on his trademark lemons, originally inspired by a painting by Édouard Manet that he saw in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Artist Donald Sultan, American, born 1951
  • Oranges on a Branch March 14, 1992
Date 1992
Medium tar, Spackle , and oil on tile over Masonite
Dimensions Overall: 97 1/2 × 96 3/4 × 5 1/8 inches (247.7 × 245.7 × 13 cm)
Credit Line Founders Society Purchase, Catherine Kresge Dewey Fund, and W. Hawkins Ferry Fund
Accession Number 1994.19
Department Contemporary Art after 1950
Not On View
the artist;
Hill Gallery (Birmingham, Michigan, USA);
1994-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)