Robert Motherwell (American, 1915–1991) is one of the founding artists of the New York School of Abstract Expressionism, and is associated with fellow artistic giants Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956), Ad Reinhardt (American, 1913–1967), and Barnett Newman (American, 1905–1970). As a graduate student at Harvard, Motherwell encountered writers who led him to pursue the expression of individuality through the action of gestural painting. In the early 1940s, Motherwell studied art history at Columbia under the famous scholar and critic Meyer Shapiro, who later introduced Motherwell to the art world.

Motherwell was influenced by the European Surrealist and Automatist émigré painters, and worked closely with Roberto Matta (Chilean, 1911–2002), with whom he travelled to Mexico in 1941. Spurred by this trip, Motherwell began creating several early works that hint at the gestural quality of his mature work. In the 1950s, his work became more abstracted, culminating in the production of his most famous and profoundly influential series, Elegy to the Spanish Republic. He is best known for his mature work, recognizable for its graphic composition of saturated and expressive brushstrokes. In addition to his contributions in painting, Motherwell taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Hunter College in New York, and was the editor of several influential books on art history.

Timeline

1915
Born in Aberdeen, WA
1937
BA, philosophy, Stanford University, Standford, ca
1937–1938
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
1940
Columbia University; encouraged by Meyer Schapiro to study art and art history
1941
Traveled to Mexico with the surrealist painter Matta; decided to make painting his primary vocation
1950–1959
Taught painting at Hunter College in New York and in addition to directing the influential Documents of Modern Art series, he edited The Dada Painters and Poets: An Anthology (1951)
1965
Was given a major retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art; this show subsequently traveled to Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Essen, and Turin
1967
Began to work on his Open series
1970
Moved to Greenwich, CT
1977
Was given a major mural commission for the new wing of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1960–1979
Exhibited widely in both America and Europe
1983
A major retrospective exhibition of Motherwell’s work was mounted at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo; this exhibition was subsequently shown in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, D.C., and New York
1991
Died in Provincetown, MA

Exhibitions

2013
A Survey - Jerald Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, USA
Ab-ex / Re-con - Abstract Expressionism Reconsidered - Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, USA
The Artist and the Poet - The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA
Il Guggenheim. L'avanguardia americana 1945–1980 - Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome, Italy
2012
Robert Motherwell: Prints from the Artist's Studio (London) - Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, England
Robert Motherwell: Abstract Expressionist - St. Louis University Museum of Art - SLUMA, St. Louis, USA
The Essential Idea: Robert Motherwell's Graphic Works - Asheville Art Museum, Asheville, USA
2011
Robert Motherwell: Works on Paper - Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, England
Focus: Robert Motherwell - Denver Art Museum, Denver, USA
Robert Motherwell: Music - Greenfield Sacks Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
2010
Robert Motherwell - Paintings - Locks Gallery, Philadelphia, USA
Robert Motherwell - printmaking impressions - Galerie Weihergut Biberngasse, Salzburg, Austria
Lost in Form, Found in Line: Works by Robert Motherwell - Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, USA
2009
The Thaw Collection of Master Drawings: Aquisitions since 2002, Morgan Library and Museum, USA
Robert Motherwell: Unique Monotypes, Greenfield Sacks Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
Beyond the Canon: Small Scale American Abstraction 1945-1965, Robert Miller Gallery, USA
Robert Motherwell: Lost in Form, Found in Line, Turchin Center for the Visual Art, Boone, USA
Robert Motherwell, Galleria d'Arte il Gabbiano, Rome, Italy
2008
The Hands of Art, SMAK Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst, Ghent, Belgium
Museum Morsbroich, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany
Robert Motherwell: Five Great Opens, Bernard Jacobsen Gallery, London, England
Reflections on Light, Galerie Bernd Kluser, Munich, Germany
2007
Temptations, The Columns, Seoul, Korea
2006
Black, Black & White, White, Leonard Hutton Galleries, New York , USA
2005
Looking at Words, erie, Das MoMA, Berlin, Germany
2004
Robert Motherwell, Rosenbaum Contemporary, Boca Raton, USA
Robert Motherwell, Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany
Robert Motherwell from the Collection: 1940–1990, The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, USA
2003
Robert Motherwell, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London, England
Robert Motherwell - A la pintura (to painting), The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA
2002
Robert Motherwell: Drawings and Related Prints - Greenfield Sacks Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
Robert Motherwell - Galerie Bernd Klüser, Munich, Germany
1999
Robert Motherwell: Unique Works on Paper: Monoprints and Monotypes, Greenfield Sacks Gallery, Santa Monica, USA
1998
Robert Motherwell's Graphics II, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, USA
1996
Robert Motherwell: Reality and Abstraction, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA
1994
Robert Motherwell's Graphics I, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, USA
1984
Robert Motherwell, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
1983
The Painter and The Printer: Robert Motherwell's Graphics, 1943-1980, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, USA
M. Knowdler, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, USA (solo)
1981–1983
M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. New York, USA (solo)
1982
The New School: Four Decades, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA

Public Collections

Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan
Kiasma - Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC
Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA
MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
University of Massachusetts, Amherst Fine Arts Center, Amherst, MA

Literature

1997
Robert Motherwell on Paper: Drawings, Prints, Collages( text by David Rosand): Harry N. Abrams; First Edition edition
Robert Motherwell: A Dialogue with Literature(text by Robert Motherwell and Bernd Kluser), Galerie Bernd Klüser, Munich, Germany(catalogue)
Robert Motherwell: The Complete Prints 1940-1991 Catalogue Raisonné(text by Robert Motherwell and Siri Engberg), Walker Art Center