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"Every intelligent painter carries the whole culture of modern painting in his head. It is his real subject, of which anything he paints is both a homage and a critique, and everything he says is a gloss."
– Robert Motherwell

"...painting is the mind realizing itself in colour."
– Robert Motherwell
 
 
 
 
Robert Motherwell:
painter & printmaker


(1915 - 1991)

Born: Aberdeen, Washington.
 
 
 
Biography
 

The youngest member of the circle of first generation Abstract Expressionist painters, Robert Motherwell was unique in this group for his extensive writings on art as well as his prolific printmaking. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1915, Motherwell grew up intending to become a philosopher and received a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Stanford University before heading east for graduate study at Harvard. As a child Motherwell’s artistic talent was encouraged with a scholarship for study at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, but he did not begin painting seriously until embarking on a year of European travel in 1938.

In 1941, after traveling to Mexico with Chilean surrealist Matta Echaurren, Motherwell decided to paint full time and moved to Greenwich Village. During this decade, he was most influenced by European surrealists, including Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy and André Masson. Interested in the unconscious mind, Motherwell explored theories of automatism by creating free-association collages that he sometimes used as underpinnings for future painting compositions. Automatism also offered Motherwell “an active principle for painting, specifically designed to explore unknown possibilities.”(1) Experimenting with this technique, Motherwell developed a loose yet vigorous brushwork that resonated with emotion.

Motherwell’s art displayed his passion for history, literature, and the human condition. From the beginning he strove to evoke a moral and political experience through his art. As an example, the artist drew on the writing of James Joyce for titles to his paintings, drawings, and prints throughout his career. A poem by Spanish poet Frederico García Lorca gave him the theme of the Elegy to the Spanish Republic, which Motherwell explored in over 200 works.

Motherwell met William Baziotes in 1942 and quickly gained entry to the group of New York artists who would become known as Abstract Expressionists. In 1943, art collector and patron Peggy Guggenheim invited Motherwell, along with Jackson Pollock and Baziotes, to contribute work to an all-collage group show. The following year, Motherwell had his first one-man show at Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery.

In the late 1960s, Motherwell began his Open series, a striking departure from his gestural paintings. Typically fields of color marked with faint charcoal lines suggesting a door or a window, the Open paintings were originally inspired by the sight of a small canvas leaning against a larger one. For the rest of his career, Motherwell painted in both expressive and austere modes, in addition to creating collages and collaborating with printmakers to make limited edition prints.

Motherwell died suddenly at his home in Provincetown in the summer of 1991 and worked productively up to the end. By this time, his career had been widely celebrated and examined with exhibitions not only at Museum of Modern Art in New York, but also at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., the Royal Academy in London, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and the Tamayo Museum in Mexico City (this opened posthumously).

© Copyright 2007 Hollis Taggart Galleries

 
 
All Images are copyrighted and strictly for educational and viewing purposes.
 
 
  Elegy to the Spanish
Republic No. 110

82" x 114"
Acrylic with pencil and charcoal on canvas.
Easter Day, 1971
 
 
 


Personage (Autoportrait)
40 7/8" x 25 15/16"
Paper collage, gouache, and ink on board.
December 9, 1943
 
 
  from Africa Suite, Africa 6
810 x 597 mm
Screenprint on paper.
1970
 
 
  Poet (1)
549 x 410 mm
Lithograph on paper.
1961
 
 
 



Ulysses
962 x 814 x 85 mm
Oil and cardboard on wood.
1947
 
 
 



No. 7 from The Basque Suite
717 x 560 mm
Screenprint on paper.
1970
 
 
 



Untitled D from The Basque Suite
713 x 559 mm
Screenprint on paper.
1970
 
 
 





El General
994 x 698 mm
Lithograph on paper.
1980

 
 
  America-La France Variations II
1067 x 650 mm
Lithograph and collage on paper.
1984
 
 
 


Untitled
303 x 227mm
Lithograph.
1967
 
 
 

Open No. 156
71.5" x 83"
Oil on canvas.
1970
 
 
 
Catalan Elegy
24" x 36"
Oil on canvas.
1987
 
 
 
Elegy to the Spanish Republic #168 (Sevilla Elegy)
30.5" x 40.5"
Oil on canvas, on panel.
1985
 
 
  The Figure “4” #2
22.75" x 13.75"
Acrylic, sepia ink & collage elements on paperboard.
1966
 
 
  Mediterranean Light
32 1/2" x 76"
Lithograph.
1991
 
 
  French Revolution Bicentennial Suite III
9 7/8" x 13 3/4"
Aquatint with photo engraving and collage Image.
1988
 
 
  U, from the Alphabet Series
29 1/2" x 21 3/4"
Unique mixed media collage with aquatint and lift-ground, etching.
1986
 
 
  Black for Mozart
63 7/8" x 40 3/4"
Lithograph printed in colors with collage.
1991
 
 
  The Little Spanish Prison
27 1/4" x 17 1/8"
Oil on canvas.
1941-44
 
 
 
 
 
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