Robert Motherwell was unique among first-generation Abstract Expressionist painters for his extensive writings on art as well as his prolific printmaking. Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1915, Motherwell received a bachelor's degree in philosophy at Stanford University before heading east for graduate study at Harvard. He did not begin painting seriously until embarking on a year of European travel in 1938.
In 1941, after traveling to Mexico with Chilean Surrealist Roberto Matta, Motherwell decided to paint full time and moved to Greenwich Village. During this decade, he was most influenced by European Surrealists, including Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and André Masson. Interested in the unconscious mind, Motherwell explored theories of automatism by creating free-association collages that he sometimes used as underpinnings for future painting compositions. He developed a loose yet vigorous style of brushwork that resonated with emotion.
Motherwell met William Baziotes in 1942 and quickly gained entry to the group of New York artists who would become known as Abstract Expressionists. In 1943, art collector and patron Peggy Guggenheim invited Motherwell, along with Jackson Pollock and Baziotes, to contribute work to an all-collage group show. The following year, Motherwell had his first one-man show at Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery.
Motherwell worked productively up to the end of his career and died at his home in Provincetown in the summer of 1991.
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