Robert Motherwell

Robert Motherwell, Untitled (from the portfolio for Three Poems, poems by Octavio Paz, lithographs by Robert Motherwell), 1988
Paper size: 21.75 x 18.5 inches
Edition of 20
Published by Limited Editions Club, lithographs printed by Trestle Editions, text printed by Wild Carrot Press, Stamperia Valdonega, and Heritage Printers, chine collé by Wingate Studio


Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) was an American artist and seminal Abstract Expressionist painter, printmaker and editor. His contemporaries were Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and others. At the age of eleven, he was awarded a fellowship to the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, and went on to the California School of Fine Arts in 1932. He received his BA in philosophy from Stanford University in 1936. Motherwell began his career as a painter in 1939 in Paris, where he had his first solo exhibition, and studied art history from 1940 to 1941 at Columbia University in New York. There he met Roberto Matta, Meyer Schapiro, and other exiled European artists associated with Surrealism. Emotionally charged brushwork and severely structured abstract were painted during this period, but in 1943, Motherwell produced a series of dark, menacing works in Response to World War II. The work for which he is best known, the series “Elegy to the Spanish Republic XXXIV” (1953-1954), are large abstracts that reflect his generation’s despair at the lost cause of the Spanish Civil War. During the 1950s, Motherwell spent most of his time lecturing and teaching, notably at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. It was during this time he worked on his most influential literary achievement, “The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology” (New York, 1951). In 1952, Motherwell and Ad Reinhardt produced the journal “Modern Artists in America.” Motherwell and Helen Frankenthaler were married from 1958 to 1971. From 1968 to 1972, Mortherwell worked on a series of paintings called “Open,” which reflected the new style of color field painting. His later works returned to more traditional Abstract Expressionist vocabulary.