Robert Motherwell 1915-1991
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Robert Motherwell was an American artist and seminal Abstract Expressionist painter. Influenced by the automatic writing and drawing prescribed by the Surrealists, Motherwell’s practice was characterized by an intuitive approach to painting. He is perhaps best known for his iconic Elegy to the Spanish Republic series, which consists of 150 variants of black forms on white backgrounds. “Painting is a medium in which the mind can actualize itself; it is a medium of thought,” he once reflected. “Thus painting, like music, tends to become its own content.”
Born on January 24, 1915 in Aberdeen, WA, Motherwell moved to New York to study at Columbia University with the art historian Meyer Schapiro. It was Schapiro's encouragement that initially led the artist to start making paintings. During the early 1940s, he entered a milieu of young artists that included William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning. Motherwell later taught Cy Twombly and Robert Rauschenberg at the famed Black Mountain College. After returning to New York, he met the painter Helen Frankenthaler in 1957, and they were married three years later. During their 13 year marriage, the two artists’ mutual interest in the poetry of abstraction fueled one another’s work.
Motherwell died on July 16, 1991 in Cape Cod, MA. Today, his works are held in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Tate Modern in London, among others.