Robert Motherwell American, 1915-1991


Robert Motherwell was born in 1915, Aberdeen, Washington, and is celebrated for his pioneering contributions to Abstract Expressionism. He is arguably the most articulate and intellectually accomplished painter of the movement, having received an extensive education in philosophy, literature and art history. As a result, he is credited with bringing together pre-War European avant-garde movements, such as Surrealism, and post-War American Abstraction.


In 1940 Motherwell moved to New York where he met Meyer Schapiro who encouraged him to focus solely on painting. Through Schapiro, Motherwell forged close friendships with the likes of Max Ernst, Andre Breton and Roberto Matta, all of whom influenced him greatly.


In 1944 his career ignited after his solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s infamous Art of This Century Gallery. The show was met with such success that, shortly afterwards, Motherwell received a contract with renowned art dealer Sam Kootz.


During the end of the 1940s, he produced one of his most celebrated bodies of works, the Elegies to the Spanish Republic. These paintings were largely made up of black and white vertical and oval abstract forms, and illustrate the profound effect that the Spanish Civil War had had on the artist. Motherwell took the tragedies of the war as a symbolic reference to all human suffering and injustice, as well as the inevitable cycle of life and death.


It was in 1954, as a result of the breakdown of his second marriage, that Motherwell created his second major series of work, Je t’aime. These paintings were in stark contrast to his pervious monochrome works, as Motherwell incorporated explosions of colour, yet they still maintained the same tight dialogue between the formal compositions of European Modernism and the more spontaneous and expressive methods of Abstract Expressionism.


Throughout his career Motherwell had a number of successful international exhibition most noticeably at the MoMa, Royal Academy of Art and Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona as well as Museum of Modern Art in Rio de Janeiro and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. His works can be found in private and public collections worldwide.


Motherwell died in Massachusetts in 1991 at the age of 76.


Available Works