Issue Date: March 11, 2010
City: Buffalo, NY
Printing Method: Lithographed
Perforations: Serpentine Die Cut
Robert Motherwell – Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 34
In describing his painting process, Robert Motherwell (1915-91) claimed that “Whatever meaning [a] picture has is the accumulated meaning of ten thousand brushstrokes, each one being decided as it was painted.” Motherwell’s paintings feature dramatic brushwork that inspires intense emotions in many viewers.
Prior to becoming an artist, Motherwell received his Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and had begun his Ph.D. at Harvard. A trip to Europe in 1938 introduced Motherwell to the Surrealist art of Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, and André Masson. Inspired by their work, Motherwell discovered his need to portray significant human themes with paint. He was also influenced by Cubist artists such as Raymond Duchamp-Villon. His extensive education in literature served useful, as Motherwell became the spokesman for the Abstract Expressionists. He toured the country and wrote about the new form of non-representational art in New York City. Since many of his fellow artists were shy or reclusive, their art may not have reached such a broad audience without these efforts.
In 1948, Motherwell began a series of over 100 oil paintings, each titled Elegy to the Spanish Republic, followed by the number in the series. Inspired by the Spanish Civil War, Motherwell claimed the paintings were not political but represented “a terrible death [that] happened and should not be forgot.”