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Explosion at Sea

Dark object on the open sea with white smoke billowing up from it.

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  • Dark object on the open sea with white smoke billowing up from it.




Vija Celmins
American, born Latvia, 1938

About this artwork

Explosion at Sea belongs to a group of paintings by Vija Celmins on the themes of war, technology, and devastation. In the mid-1960s, the artist began to use photographs from books, magazines, and newspapers found at secondhand stores and yard sales as the point of departure for her work. After locating a wealth of material on World War II—a conflict that was the backdrop of her childhood in Latvia—Celmins employed subtle layers of precise brushstrokes to construct a detailed image of an attack on an aircraft carrier. The resulting painting, like most of her works of this moment, creates a disturbing contrast between the intimacy of the format and brushwork and the haunting seriousness of the theme.

Currently Off View

Contemporary Art


Vija Celmins


Explosion at Sea


United States




Oil on canvas


34.3 × 59.7 cm (13 1/2 × 23 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Lannan Foundation

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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