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That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door)

A work made of oil on canvas.
© The Art Institute of Chicago.

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Ivan Albright
American, 1897–1983

About this artwork

Replete with powerful imagery and bearing a long, philosophical title, That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door) is an evocative meditation on the choices and regrets in life. Ivan Albright considered The Door to be his most important picture, and he worked for ten years to achieve its mesmerizing effect. He spent weeks collecting props for the painting: a marred Victorian door found in a junkyard, a faded wax funeral wreath, and a tombstone for the doorsill. Once he arranged these objects, Albright completed an elaborate charcoal underdrawing that he then covered with the intricate and obsessively painted detail that characterizes most of his work. He would often finish no more than a quarter of a square inch a day. A wrinkled, aging woman’s hand rests on the carved doorway, a faded blue handkerchief clenched between the fingers. The poignant placement of the hand, near but not touching the doorknob, only underscores the sense of remorse and mourning implied by the painting. With its profound themes of mortality and the passage of time, The Dooris a modern memento mori that encourages a consideration of the brevity of human existence.

On View

American Art, Gallery 262


Ivan Albright


That Which I Should Have Done I Did Not Do (The Door)


United States


c. 1931–1941


Oil on canvas


Signed lower right: Ivan Le Lorraine Albright


246.4 × 91.4 cm (97 × 36 in.)

Credit Line

Mary and Leigh Block Charitable Fund

Reference Number



© The Art Institute of Chicago.

Extended information about this artwork

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