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. KvF XVI is one of three paintings in Indiana’s series that employs a grisaille palette. Like the two other grisaille works, KvF IV and KvF XI, it takes Hartley’s Painting, Number 5 (1914–15) as its model, and has two circular designs in the center of the canvas that suggest the cockades worn by members of the German Imperial army.
A tondo, the work is pared down to the circle found in the rectangular and diamond canvases. A slightly different formal arrangement of the same elements found in the other grisaille canvases, it does not include any additional references to Hartley and von Freyburg.