Gottlieb belongs to the first generation of American abstract expressionists, although European developments influenced him too. He worked his passage across the Atlantic at age seventeen, and spent every waking hour in the Louvre art museum for the next two years. After he returned to America he lived in the Arizona Desert from 1937 to 1938, when he transitioned into a more surrealist phase.
Although he painted this picture decades later in 1962, it is hugely evocative of those years beneath the baking sun. When asked about the deeper meanings of his work he said, ‘I frequently hear the question, ‘What do these images mean?’ This is simply the wrong question. Visual images do not have to conform to either verbal thinking or optical facts. A better question would be ‘Do these images convey any emotional truth?’
On another occasion he commented, ‘If I made a wriggly line or a serpentine line it was because I wanted a serpentine line. Afterwards it would suggest a snake but when I made it, it did not suggest anything. It was purely shape…’ This sets us free to interpret his work in any way our emotions choose to go.