Robert Motherwell



Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, made up the quartet of American artists that radically defined abstraction and established New York City as the center of the post-war art world.

Motherwell was also the unofficial spokesman of the New York School, writing, teaching, and lecturing extensively on behalf of abstract expressionism, his fellow artists, and the merits of abstraction. In addition to his accomplishments as a painter and scholar Motherwell was also one of the most accomplished American printmakers of the 20th century. 

He is one of the most innovative and prolific printmakers of the 20th century. He was always searching for new techniques, whether at his own printmaking atelier or collaborating with others, to expand his ideas and express his aesthetic.

In 1967, Motherwell introduced his "Open" series, a study that would continue to evolve for nearly two decades, extending into the 1980s. While Motherwell will forever be associated with abstract expressionism, this body of work, is perhaps his way of responding to minimalism. 

The "Open" series came about entirely by chance. While in his studio, the artist was captivated by the silhouette of a recent painting, "Summertime in Italy," which leaned against a larger, freshly primed canvas. Intrigued by the proportions, Motherwell used charcoal to trace the canvas's contours, resulting in a simple but bold rectangular shape formed by three lines. 

"Grey Open with White Paint" is a quintessential example of this series. A sweeping plane of warm mink or stone grey hosts a rectangle comprised of three fine black lines. Swathes of stark white embrace the corners of the form, accentuating its crisp angles. Like the best of this series, the top of the rectangle is left unlatched, as if representing a window, a swing, or opening into a world beyond.

Click here and here to see other "cousins" within this family of prints. 

While Motherwell is renowned for black gestural forms, the influence of Minimalism in the 1960s is especially apparent in this body of work. This results is arguably one of the most intriguing phases within his entire oeuvre, and a reminder of his mastery and contribution to American abstraction. 

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"Gray Open with White Paint"

USA, 1981 

Soft-ground etching and pochoir

Grey Auvergne à la Main Richard de Bas handmade paper

Signed "RM" and numbered by the artist. 

From an edition of 79

20.25”H 26.25”W (work)

Very good condition

Provenance: The Dedalus Foundation

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