Vija Celmins Untitled (Desert-Galaxy) 1974 © Vija Celmins.


Born 1938
Nationality American
Birth place Latvian

Born in Latvia in 1938, Celmins and her family emigrated to the United States in 1948. Although beginning her career as an Abstract Expressionist painter, she is now best known for her intricate, monochromatic drawings of a select range of subjects. In 1966 she began to use photographs as the subject for her works, creating what she described as “impossible images” which remind us of the complexity of the simplest things. These meticulous renderings of the surface of the ocean, expanses of desert, the night sky, or a spider’s web, demonstrate her fascination with the surrounding world. With a slow, painstaking approach, some of these works take up to a year to complete.

Glossary terms

Glossary terms


An extremely detailed form of naturalistic art, often based on photographs. The style is particularly associated with North American art of the 1970s.


A printmaking technique using a stone or zinc plate to which the image is applied with a greasy material. After wetting the plate, greasy ink is applied. The ink sticks only to the drawn image and not the wet surface, thus creating a reproduction when applied to paper.