About The Artist
American artist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) is recognized as one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters and artists of the 20th century. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, he lived in New York for much of his life, where he associated with the leading artists of the day, including Jackson Pollock, Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko.
Motherwell studied at Harvard University and Columbia University, where he first came into contact with the teachings of the European Surrealist movement. This encounter proved formative for the artist, influencing his first abstract drawings, produced on a trip to Mexico. His interest in the concept of “automatism” went on to become a foundation for the beginnings of the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York. He is recognized as a key figure of ‘the New York School’, as he referred to it, which established New York City as the heart of the post-war art world. An accomplished writer, editor and teacher, Motherwell spent much of his career lecturing, most notably at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in the 1950s.
Motherwell created work in multiple media throughout his long career, ranging from large-scale dramatic paintings to more playful collages, constructed from ephemera like letters, stamps, tobacco labels and music sheets. His paintings, drawings and prints are characterized by a stark palette and simple, decisive forms, often featuring black forms against flat fields of color. The influence of traditional Asian calligraphy can be seen in Motherwell’s expressive brushstrokes as well as in the pared-back nature of his compositions.
Motherwell was granted several high-profile commissions during his lifetime, including the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston and the Stanford University Law School in California. He was also awarded the National Medal of Arts in 1989. On his death, the prominent art critic Clement Greenberg proclaimed Motherwell as one of the best artists of his generation: "Although he is underrated today, in my opinion he was the very best of the Abstract Expressionist painters."
Motherwell has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions around the world. His work is featured in many major public collections worldwide at institutions such as Tate Modern, London; Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“Robert Motherwell, Master of Abstract, Dies.” The New York Times. G. Glueck. July 18, 1991. Web. Sept, 27, 2016