Watery Ecstatic

Last updated
Watery Ecstatic
Watery Ecstatic.jpg
Artist Ellen Gallagher
MediumWatercolor, pencil and cut paper
Dimensions56.5 cm× 76.2 cm(22.2 in× 30.0 in)
Location Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis

Watery Ecstatic is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ellen Gallagher American painter

Ellen Gallagher is an American artist. Her work has been shown in numerous solo and group exhibitions and is held in the permanent collections of many major museums. Her media include painting, works on paper, film and video. Some of her pieces refer to issues of race, and may combine formality with racial stereotypes and depict "ordering principles" society imposes.

Saint Louis Art Museum art museum in Saint Louis, Missouri

The Saint Louis Art Museum is one of the principal U.S. art museums, with paintings, sculptures, cultural objects, and ancient masterpieces from all corners of the world. Its three-story building stands in Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri, where it is visited by up to a half million people every year. Admission is free through a subsidy from the cultural tax district for St. Louis City and County.



An octopus-like sea creature is painted in watercolor and pencil on a piece of cut paper. The creature stretches across the proper right side of the paper. The painting is signed on the verso: "Ellen Gallagher 2002". [1]

Octopus order of molluscs

The octopus is a soft-bodied, eight-limbed mollusc of the order Octopoda. Around 300 species are recognised, and the order is grouped within the class Cephalopoda with squids, cuttlefish, and nautiloids. Like other cephalopods, the octopus is bilaterally symmetric with two eyes and a beak, with its mouth at the center point of the eight limbs. The soft body can rapidly alter its shape, enabling octopuses to squeeze through small gaps. They trail their eight appendages behind them as they swim. The siphon is used both for respiration and for locomotion, by expelling a jet of water. Octopuses have a complex nervous system and excellent sight, and are among the most intelligent and behaviourally diverse of all invertebrates.


The painting is a part of a series, titled Water Ecstatic Series, which Gallagher describes as being a type of scrimshaw. [2]

Scrimshaw engravings and carvings done in bone or ivory, created by sailors

Scrimshaw is scrollwork, engravings, and carvings done in bone or ivory. Typically it refers to the artwork created by whalers, engraved on the byproducts of whales, such as bones or cartilage. It is most commonly made out of the bones and teeth of sperm whales, the baleen of other whales, and the tusks of walruses. It takes the form of elaborate engravings in the form of pictures and lettering on the surface of the bone or tooth, with the engraving highlighted using a pigment, or, less often, small sculptures made from the same material. However the latter really fall into the categories of ivory carving, for all carved teeth and tusks, or bone carving. The making of scrimshaw began on whaling ships between 1745 and 1759 on the Pacific Ocean, and survived until the ban on commercial whaling. The practice survives as a hobby and as a trade for commercial artisans. A maker of scrimshaw is known as a scrimshander. The word first appeared in print in the early 19th century, but the etymology is uncertain.


The painting was purchased by the Saint Louis Art Museum on May 23, 2003 from the artist via Gagosian Gallery in New York City. Funding to purchase the painting came from the Henry L. and Natalie Edison Freund Charitable Trust. Watery Ecstatic was featured in a solo exhibition about Gallagher at the Saint Louis Art Museum, titled Currents 88: Ellen Gallagher, in 2003. The work also toured Europe as part of another solo show of Gallagher's work, "Ellen Gallagher: AxME," which visited the Sara Hildén Art Museum, Tate Modern, and Haus der Kunst. [1]

Gagosian is a contemporary art gallery owned and directed by Larry Gagosian. The gallery exhibits some of the most influential artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are 16 gallery spaces: five in New York; three in London; two in Paris; one each in Basel, Beverly Hills, San Francisco, Rome, Athens, Geneva and Hong Kong.

Tate Modern modern art gallery in London, England

Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in London. It is Britain's national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. It is based in the former Bankside Power Station, in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world. As with the UK's other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space, while tickets must be purchased for the major temporary exhibitions. The gallery is a highly visited museum, pulling in approximately 5.8 million visitors in 2018.

<i>Haus der Kunst</i> art museum in Munich, Germany

The Haus der Kunst is a non-collecting modern and contemporary art museum in Munich, Germany. It is located at Prinzregentenstraße 1 at the southern edge of the Englischer Garten, Munich's largest park.

Related Research Articles

Henri Matisse French artist

Henri Émile Benoît Matisse was a French artist, known for both his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso, as one of the artists who best helped to define the revolutionary developments in the visual arts throughout the opening decades of the twentieth century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture.

Christopher Ofili, is a British Turner Prize-winning painter who is best known for his paintings incorporating elephant dung. He was one of the Young British Artists. Since 2005, Ofili has been living and working in Trinidad and Tobago, where he currently resides in Port of Spain. He also lives and works in London and Brooklyn.

Neo Rauch German painter

Neo Rauch is a German artist whose paintings mine the intersection of his personal history with the politics of industrial alienation. His work reflects the influence of socialist realism, and owes a debt to Surrealists Giorgio de Chirico and René Magritte, although Rauch hesitates to align himself with surrealism. He studied at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst Leipzig, and he lives in Markkleeberg near Leipzig, Germany and works as the principal artist of the New Leipzig School. The artist is represented by Galerie EIGEN + ART Leipzig/Berlin and David Zwirner, New York.

Mark Bradford American visual artist

Mark Bradford is an American artist living and working in Los Angeles.

Paul (Allen) Reed was an American artist most associated with the Washington Color School and Color Field Painting.

Kai Althoff is a German visual artist and musician.

Michael J. Byron is an American visual artist. He holds a B.F.A from the Kansas City Art Institute and a M.F.A from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Byron currently lives in St. Louis, Missouri where he is a professor of art at Washington University in St. Louis.

Ellen Banks is an African-American painter and multi-media artist using only printed musical scores as inspiration for her paintings.

<i>Teeth Tracks</i> painting by Ellen Gallagher

Teeth Tracks is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of The Broad in Los Angeles in the United States.

<i>Untitled</i> (1995 painting by Ellen Gallagher) painting by Ellen Gallagher (2016.05)

Untitled is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States.

<i>Tally</i> (painting) painting by Ellen Gallagher

Tally is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston in Boston, Massachusetts in the United States.

<i>Dolls Eyes</i> (painting) painting by Ellen Gallagher

Doll's Eyes is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts.

<i>Host</i> (painting) painting by Ellen Gallagher

Host is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Seattle Art Museum in Seattle, Washington in the United States.

<i>Bird in Hand</i> (painting) painting by Ellen Gallagher

Bird in Hand is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Tate Modern in London, England in the United Kingdom.

<i>Afro Mountain</i> painting by Ellen Gallagher

Afro Mountain is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, New York in the United States.

<i>Paper Cup</i> (painting) painting by Ellen Gallagher

Paper Cup is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Tate Modern in London, England in the United Kingdom.

<i>Delirious Hem</i> painting by Ellen Gallagher

Delirious Hem is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York in the United States.

<i>They Could Still Serve</i> painting by Ellen Gallagher

They Could Still Serve is a painting by Ellen Gallagher. It is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, New York in the United States. They Could Still Serve represents Gallagher's biggest focused body of work: large scale pieces that explore racial stereotypes of African Americans, specifically those seen in minstrel shows.


  1. 1 2 "Watery Ecstatic". Saint Louis Art Museum. Retrieved 8 February 2017.
  2. ""Watery Ecstatic Series" (2001)". Art21. Retrieved 8 February 2017.