22 Jul

A Great American Abstract

Robert Motherwell(January 24,1915 – July 16, 1991). Was an American Abstract Expressionist painter and printmaker

He was born in Aberdeen, Washington and his family later moved to San Francisco, CA.  He graduated from Stanford University in 1937 with his bachelor of arts degree in philosophy.  He completed year one of his Ph.D at Harvard in the same field of study before being influenced to switch to art and art history, studying under Meyer Schapiro at Columbia University.   In 1941, he journey to Mexico with surrealist painter Matta, Motherwell decided to make painting his primary vocation.

The next year Motherwell began to exhibit his work in New York and in 1944 he had his first one-man show at Peggy Guggenheim’s “Art of This Century” gallery. Beginning in the mid-1940s, Motherwell became the leading spokesman for avant-garde art in America.  He lectured widely on abstract painting and he founded and edited the Documents of Modern Art series. In 1948, he began to work with his celebrated Elegy to the Spanish Republic theme, which he continued to develop throughout his life. From 1950 to 1959, Motherwell also taught painting at Hunter College, in New York. At this time, he was a prolific writer and lecturer, and in addition to directing the influential Documents of Modern Art Series, he edited The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology, which was published in 1951.

He married  a fellow American abstract expressionist painters as his third wife right after he separated from Betty little( his 2nd wife).  As her predecessors before her, they divorced.  But their works even after they were no longer together, had a parallel to each other.  It was as if one fed of the other.

In 1958–59, Motherwell was included in “The New American Painting” exhibition, initiated by the Museum of Modern Art, which was shown in numerous European cities. That year he traveled in Spain and France, where he started his Iberia series. During the 1960s, Motherwell exhibited widely in both America and Europe and in 1965 he was given a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art; this show subsequently traveled to Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Essen, and Turin. In 1967, Motherwell began to work on his Open series.

In 1970, Motherwell moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. During the 1970s, he had important retrospective exhibitions in a number of European cities, including Düsseldorf, Stockholm, Vienna, Paris, Edinburgh, and London. In 1977, Motherwell was given a major mural commission for the new wing of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

In 1983, a major retrospective exhibition of Motherwell’s work was mounted at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York; this exhibition was subsequently shown in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New York City. Another retrospective was shown in Mexico City, Monterey, and Fort Worth, Texas, in 1991.

Robert Motherwell died in Provincetown, Massachusetts on July 16, 1991.

Over a long and distinguished career, Motherwell was the recipient of numerous awards and honors, and his works are on display in museums throughout the world.


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