Motherwell, Robert

Motherwell, Robert Biography

American painter, born in Aberdeen, Washington, one of the founders of abstract expressionism and one of its most prolific and articulate exponents. A precocious youth, Robert Motherwell received a scholarship to study art when he was 11 years old. He preferred academic studies, however, and eventually took degrees in aesthetics from Stanford and Harvard universities.

Robert Motherwell decided to become a serious artist only in 1941. His first solo exhibition was in 1944 at the Art of This Century Gallery in New York City. His best-known works are The Crossing (1948, Rockefeller Collections, New York City) and his large, powerful, nonrepresentational series of paintings in black and white, entitled Elegy to the Spanish Republic, consisting of more than 100 canvases inspired by the Spanish Civil War, and painted between 1949 and 1976.

During the 1960s he painted in several different styles, so that such paintings as Africa (1964-65; Baltimore Museum of Art) look like enlarged details of elegant calligraphy, while Indian Summer, #2 (1962-64) combines the bravura brushwork typical of Abstract Expressionism with the broad areas of evenly applied colour characteristic of the then-emerging Colour Field Painting style.

From 1958 to 1971 Motherwell was married to the American painter Helen Frankenthaler.

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