Robert Indiana’s Hartley Elegies (1989–94) is a series of 18 paintings inspired by Marsden Hartley’s War Motif series, which Hartley executed as a tribute to the young German soldier Karl von Freyburg, who died during World War I and with whom Hartley had a deep friendship. Indiana employed Hartley’s stylized visual language throughout the Elegies, while reinvesting them with additional content and meaning.
KvF VI is based on Hartley’s Painting Number 49, Berlin (1914-15). Indiana added to the symbolism of Hartley’s work, including additional references to von Freyburg and Hartley by incorporating the year of each man’s death, 1914 and 1943, respectively. Of Indiana’s six rectangular Elegies it is the only one which does not incorporate text. The work is also the only one of the Elegies with a stark black and white color scheme, seen in earlier works such as The Melville Triptych (1962) and Love Rising (The Black and White Love) (1968).