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Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991)


Also known as:  Motherwell, Robert Burns

Birth Place: Aberdeen (Grays Harbor county, Washington, United States)

A contemporary of Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell lived from 1915 to 1991. He attended the famed New York School alongside these artists, where he was influenced greatly by the Parisian Surrealists, Masson, Duchamp, and Max Ernst. It was during this time that Motherwell decided to make painting his vocation and went on to be an integral component in the Abstract Expressionism movement. However, the artist also attended Harvard, at the encouragement of his father, so that he would have the foundation necessary to teach should his painting career not be successful.

Motherwell was born in the state of Washington, but was raised primarily in San Francisco. He spent the majority of his school years in California. The bright colors and broad spaces of his environs informed his abstract paintings, as many contain paint the ochre yellow color that is noted in the hills of Northern California, and the ultramarine blue of the Pacific Coast sky, as it reflects the water.

In 1958, the work was included in a traveling exhibit called “The New American Painting,” initiated by the Museum of Modern Art. In 1965, the same museum gave Motherwell a major retrospective exhibition. The show traveled across Europe to Amsterdam, Brussels, Turin, and London. Motherwell’s work is still exhibited heavily in the United States in such notable venues as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and in venues across Europe. It also currently hangs in the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Robert Motherwell set up the Dedalus Foudation in 1981 to foster public understanding of modernism and modern art, through its support of exhibitions, publications, education and research in this field. He died on July 16, 1991, leaving an estimated $25 million and over 1,000 works of art.

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