While the Earth Revolves at Night Artist: James Rosenquist (American, 1933–2017)


Modern and Contemporary Art

Not on view

While the Earth Revolves at Night belongs to a celebrated group of monumental triptychs that James Rosenquist painted in the 1980s. Unlike his collage paintings of the 1960s that overlaid a series of cropped images, his later works abut relatively unfragmented scenes to create incongruous adjacencies. In the left panel, a gloved female hand appears to have dropped a bag of groceries. This image of clumsiness or anger hangs alongside a panel depicting a woman's red lacquered fingernail that appears to jut beneath venetian blinds. The oversized nail is filed into the sharp nib of a fountain pen and surrounded by arcing star trails, like those captured in time-lapse photography of the night sky. In the right panel, a series of interlocking gears echoes this astral rotation. The work's phallic fingertip blocks off the stars beyond it, an apparent indication that the painting's central window offers no portal to cosmic truths.


Acrylic on canvas; three panels


78 × 198 3/8 in. (198.12 × 503.87 cm)
each panel: 78 × 66 1/8 × 1/2 in. (198.12 × 167.96 × 1.27 cm)

Credit Line

Charles B. Benenson, B.A. 1933, Collection

Accession Number



20th century


Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of records is ongoing.



Whitney Museum of American Art
JAMES ROSENQUIST: 6/25-9/21/86
Lender: Barry and Gail Berkus
Catalogue No. JR.86.195.1
  • Cathleen Chaffee, Eye on a Century: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Charles B. Benenson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2012), 136–37, 175, no. 64
  • "Acquisitions, July 1, 2006–June 30, 2007," in "Japanese Art at Yale," special issue, Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (2007), 240
  • Judith Goldman, James Rosenquist, exh. cat. (New York: Viking Press, 1985), 61, 176, ill
Object copyright
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