Spencer Museum of Art The University of Kansas

Welcome to the Spencer Collection

Oracle of '76
  • Robert Berkeley Green
    born: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States ; died: Lawrence, Kansas, United States ; active: United States
  • Oracle of '76, 1976?
  • Where object was made: United States
  • egg tempera on gesso ground over hardboard
  • Image Dimensions Height/Width: 74.9 x 92.7 cm
  • Gift of Robert and Miriam Green
  • Not on display
  • 1996.0080
Label Text

Exhibition Label:
"Dreams and Portals," Jun-2008, Kris Ercums and Susan Earle
Intro Label:
This summer display features selections from the Spencer’s permanent collection, including works that may evoke dreams and ideas of place, near and far.

The works range in media from painting and watercolor to collage, textile, and video. Some may transport you to other places, such as the lyrical "Blue Door (La Porte Bleue)" by French artist Pierre Lesieur. Reflecting the artist’s travels to North Africa, this painting evokes the sea or an open door in a way that suggests a dream, or a portal.

Many works feature abstract imagery, at times suggestive of dreams, or passages to other landscapes, be they of the mind or actual places. Others combine abstraction and figuration, like the William T. Wiley drawing
"Feeding Time." Others teeter between realism and abstraction, such as "Foam Chrome II" by Gary Pruner.

A portal can be defined as a door or gate or entrance, especially a grand or imposing one. Paintings themselves are like portals. They allow us to enter worlds and spaces like nothing else can.

Let your mind wander and see what dreams you might recall, or what new perspectives you might gain.

Archive Label:
“The bodice of the figure is indigo blue which I was particularly interested in doing because indigo blue is only permanent in egg tempera. If you varnish it’ll turn dark. That’s why I never varnished it. The whole sky area is underpainted with a red, yellow and blue, in small blotches of color, with a scumble of blue gray. The crack in the wall was bright red at one point. Tempera is a very slow process. The green underpainting. It isn’t transparent. You have to kind of localize, for instance in the cheek and lips that’s an undertone of red over the green.
“I wanted to create a kind of mystery as to whether it’s real or not. It looks like a person and it also looks like a mannequin. What started me on this was that I had the mannequin in my studio and the window, the only window that gave light came in from the right and that’s how I got the light effect there. I’d made several sketches, just black and white sketches. That’s a rock, a rock that had a crevice running through it, sitting on the sheet of plate glass on the table. I was going to put an old lamp on the right but I felt it would have detracted from the figure so I eliminated that. And the thing that modified the window in an interesting way was the green strips on the upper and lower part of this first window frame.