Motherwell, Robert

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Motherwell, Robert

Robert Motherwell, 1915–91, American painter and writer, b. Aberdeen, Wash. Motherwell taught art at several colleges and during the early 1940s he became a cogent theoretician of abstract expressionism. His canvases are characterized by large, amorphous shapes, painted in strong, austere colors. His most famous body of work is a series of over 100 paintings entitled Elegy for the Spanish Republic (1948–90). He also created numerous masterful collages and more than 500 editions of prints. He was married for several years to the painter Helen Frankenthaler. Motherwell edited Documents of Modern Art (15 vol., 1944–61), Modern Artists in America (1952), The Dada Painters and Poets (1951), and Documents of 20th-Century Art (1971–80). His keen critical powers and abundant intellectual gifts are evident in his many essays, brought together in The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell (1993).

See S. Engberg, Robert Motherwell: The Complete Prints 1940–1991 (2004) and J. Flam et al., Robert Motherwell, Paintings and Collages: A Catalogue Raisonné (2012); biographies by H. H. Arnason and S. P. Breckinridge (1982), D. Ashton and J. Flam (1983), and R. S. Mattison (1989).

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