Robert Motherwell

Robert Motherwell was an American artist and seminal painter of abstract expressionism. 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 shapes 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 January 24, 1915 in Aberdeen, WA, Motherwell moved to New York to study at Columbia University with art historian Meyer Schapiro. It was Schapiro’s encouragement that initially led the artist to begin making paintings. In the early 1940s, he joined 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 famous Black Mountain College. After returning to New York, he met painter Helen Frankenthaler in 1957 and they married three years later. During their 13-year marriage, the two artists’ mutual interest in the poetry of abstraction drove each other’s work. Motherwell died on July 16, 1991 in Cape Cod, MA. Today, his works are 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.