ROBERT MOTHERWELL "GAULOISES BLEUES”, 1970
Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, were the essential American abstract painters that radically defined Modern painting and established New York City as the center of the art world for the second half of the 20th century.
While Motherwell is known as one of the most important artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, he is also revered for his accomplishments as a printmaker.
Motherwell was always searching for new techniques to express his ideas and aesthetic.
In the early 1970s, his artwork, across several media, began to incorporate material from daily life such as cigarette (or wine) label graphics. "Gauloises", his preferred brand of cigarette, became one of the central elements of his compositions during the 1970's.
"Gauloises" cigarettes were notoriously strong. The brand was also linked to glamorous cultural figures, like Pablo Picasso, and the French intellectual elite (including Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus).
Using such cigarette labels continued a tradition, established by Picasso and Braque during the heyday of Cubism, of using the detritus of daily life in their artwork.
Where the Cubists incorporated collage into the painted canvas, Motherwell similarly developed a process of collage incorporated into print while retaining the artistic gesture of Abstract Expressionist painting.
Click here to see another example of cigarette packaging in Motherwell’s work.
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“Gauloises Bleues (White)”, 1970.
Color aquatint and line-cut with ULAE blindstamp lower left
Signed and numbered “trial proof” in pencil to margin
Published by Universal Limited Art Editions, West Islip, New York.
11”H 6.5”W (plate)
23”H 15.5”W (sheet)
Provenance: The Morris Gallery, Toronto (label verso)
Literature: Bernard Jacobson, Robert Motherwell: The Making of an American Giant, 2015; Stephanie Terenzio, The Prints of Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonné 1943-1984,  1984.