Artist Profiles: Abstract Expressionist Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)

September 2020

‘Motherwell was one of the finest American painters of the 20th century, most definitely,’ says Dedalus Foundation CEO Jack Flam. ‘His paintings mix raw energy with a spiritual gracefulness that sets them apart.’

Few artists were as intrinsically connected to Abstract Expressionism as Robert Motherwell (1915-1991). Unlike Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock, whose stars burned brightly but briefly, Motherwell remained prolific throughout his 50-year career. He was a searching artist whose output, though determinedly abstract, was also hugely varied.

Motherwell’s ‘Elegies to the Spanish Republic’ series is widely regarded as the high point of his career, with examples found in several major museum collections — they have consistently achieved the artist’s highest prices at auction too.

On Motherwell’s death in 1991, the eminent art critic Clement Greenberg wrote that ‘although underrated today… he was one of the very best of the Abstract Expressionist painters’.

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