Robert Motherwell

Born 1915 Aberdeen, Washington
Died 1991 Provincetown, Massachusetts

Motherwell was a founding member of the American School of Abstract Expressionism and a crucial link between the French Surrealists and the young New York artists who emerged as the Abstract Expressionists. Robert Motherwell was one of the first painters to exhibit works in the New American style.

Motherwell was profoundly affected by the horrors of the Spanish Civil War. Elegy to the Spanish Republic, a composition that Motherwell constantly reworked and produced as a series from the 1940s onward, displays the dripped and splattered manner of painting that was a hallmark of the Abstract Expressionist style.

Open No. 88: In Blue


Acrylic paint on canvas

“In a way, painting is like wine: it is as old, as simple, as primitive and as varied. Like wine, it is a very specific means of expression, with a limited vocabulary, but vast in its expressive potential.”

 –Robert Motherwell

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 160


Acrylic paint on canvas

“Abstract expressionism was the first American art that was filled with anger as well as beauty.” 


“I take an elegy to be a funeral lamentation or funeral song for something one cared about. The ‘Spanish Elegies’ are not ‘political’ but my private insistence that a terrible death happened that should not be forgot. They are as eloquent as I could make them. But the pictures are also general metaphors of the contrast between life and death and their interrelation.”

      -Robert Motherwell