Tàpies explored the mystery of number and its meaning many times in his work, as in this oil painting that shows the numbers one, two, three and four in chronological order. The composition is divided into four fields by a freely executed white cross of lines, on which the numbers can be seen in black lettering on an abstract red and black background. The work reveals a spontaneous, lively brushstroke that gesturally loosens up the arrangement and at the same time refuses compositional rigour. The numbers are clearly legible, but merge with the background to form a visual unit. The artist makes use of the colours so typical of him, which are always to be understood in connection with his Catalan heritage.
By including ciphers, letters or – as in this case – numbers to his abstract paintings, Tàpies added another spiritual level to his work, however, without assigning a meaning to it. He often arranged numbers in a chronological rhythm, which in Taoist painting symbolises change. Tàpies not only often dealt with Far Eastern philosophies, but also in depth with the number symbolism of different cultures. Principles of enigma and ambiguity are part of his artistic strategy.