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Last updated: 1/25/2017
Home / Gallery Tour 1 / Heroic Poetry / Gallery Tour 2 / Artists
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Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991): Original Prints

For introduction and bibliography, click here.
Motherwell / Motherwell 2: Madrid Suite / Motherwell 3 / Motherwell 4: Beau Geste / Motherwell 5

Josef Albers / Richard Anuszkiewicz / Charles Arnoldi / Leonard Baskin / Jack Beal / Ed Baynard / Norman Bluhm
Richard Bosman /James Brown / Alexander Calder / Warrington Colescott / Christo / George Cramer / Allan D'Arcangelo
Willem de Kooning / Richard Diebenkorn /Jim Dine / Sam Francis / Sam Gilliam / Adolph Gottlieb / Philip Guston
John Himmelfarb / / Robert Indiana / Paul Jenkins / Jasper Johns / Lester Johnson / Alex Katz / R. B. Kitaj
Ellsworth Kelly/ Nicholas Krushenick / Jacob Lawrence / Roy Lichtenstein / Richard Lindner / Manel Llèdos
Robert Motherwell / Reuben Nakian / Barnet Newman / Claes Oldenberg / Jules Olitski / Philip Pearlstein / Mel Ramos
Robert Rauschenberg / Don Reitz / Larry Rivers / James Rosenquist / George Segal / Alan Shields / Steven Sorman
Robert Stackhouse / Frank Stella / Carol Summers / Wayne Taylor / William (Bill) Weege / John Wesley / Tom Wesselman
Jack Youngerman / Adja Yunkers

Heroic Poetry: Jonna Rae Brinkman / Elaine de Kooning / Willem de Kooning / Helen Frankenthaler / Joan Miró
Joan Mitchell / Louise Nevelson / Joan Snyder / Antoni Tàpies
Heroic Poetry: Jonna Rae Brinkman / Elaine de Kooning / Willem de Kooning / Helen Frankenthaler / Joan Miró
Joan Mitchell / Louise Nevelson / Joan Snyder / Antoni Tàpies
Since his death in 1991, Robert Motherwell’s place in the history of 20th-century art has become more clear. A PBS special acclaimed him as the most important of the Abstract Expressionists whose heroic vision of art dominated the 1950s and 1960s and continues to withstand the claims of its later rivals (Pop, Minimalism, Conceptual Art, etc.) In a 1970 statement, Motherwell defined the place of the artist in our culture: “Most people ignorantly suppose that artists are the decorators of our human existence, the esthetes to whom the cultivated may turn when the real business of the day is done. But actually what an artist is, is a person skilled in expressing human feeling. . . . Far from being merely decorative, the artist’s awareness . . . is one . . . of the few guardians of the inherent sanity and equilibrium of the human spirit that we have.”

Motherwell came to New York City in 1940 and joined a group of artists—including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline—who brought European Modernism to American painting. Rejecting the "realism" of American Regionalists like Thomas Hart Benton, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry, they looked at a world split apart by war and at the threat of totalitarian regimes like those of Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco, and in response they created an art that rejected the propagandistic vision of perfect Aryans creating a brave new world, that dug under the facade of the physical to expose the stresses tearing the world and the individual apart, an art that sought to understand the subconscious and the unconscious, that substituated emotion for logic and gestures for photographic realism. Strongly influenced by Miro, whose series of Constellations were first shown in New York at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in the early 1940s, by Picasso, whose giant Guernica brought to the nightmare depiction of a village slaughtered by Franco's trrops aided by Hitler's bombers, a mighty cry of rage and pain, and by the the Surrealists, many of whom had fled from Nazi Europe to New York, the Abstract Expressionists sought to create images that might wake up America from its long repressed sleep of conformity to the brave new world of a world at war with civilization's very existence at risk.

Born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1915, Motherwell studied philosophy at Stanford and Harvard where he fell under the spell of Alfred North Whitehead, who first challenged him with the notion of abstraction as a process of discarding the inessential and focusing on the necessary. Reflecting on those early years, he insisted that "if the abstraction, the violence, the humanity was valid in Abstract Expressionism, then it cut out the ground from every other kind of painting." It was this revolutionary faith that steered his life and his art.

Selected Bibliography: H. H. Arnason, Robert Motherwell (NY: Abrams, 1977; 2nd ed. 1982); Dore Ashton & Jack D. Flam, Robert Motherwell (NY: Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo / Abbeville Press, 1983); E. A. Carmean Jr., The Collages of Robert Motherwell: A Retrospective Exhibition (Houston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1973); Mary Ann Caws, Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds (NY: Columbia University Press, 1996); Siri Engberg & Joan Banach, Robert Motherwell: The Complete Prints 1940-1991 (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 2003)); Jack Flam, Motherwell (NY: Rizzoli, 1991); Fort Worth Art Museum, Robert Motherwell: Stephen's Iron Crown and Related Works (Fort Worth Art Museum, 1985); Constance and Jack Glenn, ed. The Dedalus Sketchbooks, Robert Motherwell (NY: Harry N. Abrams , 1988); FrankO'Hara, ed. Robert Motherwell, With Selections From The Artist's Writings (NY: The Museum Of Modern Art, 1965); Marcelin Pleynet, Robert Motherwell (Paris: Editions Daniel Papieski, 1989); David Rosand, ed. Robert Motherwell on Paper. Drawings, Prints, Collages (NY: Abrams, 1997); Stephanie Terenzio & Dorothy C. Belknap, The Prints of Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1943-1990 (NY: Hudson Hills Press, 1991); Stephanie Terenzio, Robert Motherwell & Black (Storrs, CT: William Benton Museum of Art, 1980); Stephanie Terenzio, The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell (NY: Oxford University Press, 1992).
Calligraphy (Belknap 8, Engberg & Banach 9). Original lithograph, 1965-66. 80 signed & numbered impressions. One of Motherwell's most famous prints, it has been included in numerous exhibits (including one at the Madison Art Center) and included in a retrospective of Motherwell's prints and drawings held at the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Art Gallery at Columbia University in 1997 that then traveled to the University of Richmond Art Gallery and the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. It is illustrated in David Rosand, ed. Robert Motherwell on Paper. Drawings, Prints, Collages (NY: Abrams, 1997). Image size: 489x660mm. Price: SOLD.
Summertime in Italy (with Lines) (Engberg & Banach 35, Belknap 22). Original color lithograph, 1965-66. 100 signed & numbered impressions plus artists proofs. Printed on Rives B. F. K. at the Hollander Workshop in NYC by Irwin Hollander. The edition was printed with a background; 1/3 were black, dark blue, or light blue. Our impression is one of the 33 with a dark blue background. A good clean impression. Large illustration in Stephanie Terenzio & Dorothy C. Belknap, The Prints of Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1943-1990 (NY: Hudson Hills Press, 1991), p. 165. Signed and numbered lower right just above the bottom line; our impression is n. 52/100. Image size: 537x401 mm. Price: $5000.
Summertime in Italy (with Lines) (Engberg & Banach 35, Belknap 22). Original color lithograph, 1965-66. 100 signed & numbered impressions plus artists proofs. Printed on Rives B. F. K. at the Hollander Workshop in NYC; printed by Irwin Hollander. The edition was printed with a background; 1/3 were black, dark blue, or light blue. Eight of the artist's proofs were printed without a background plate; ours is one of those eight. A good clean impression. Large illustration in Stephanie Terenzio & Dorothy C. Belknap, The Prints of Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1943-1990 (NY: Hudson Hills Press, 1991), p. 165. Very rare in this state. Image size: 537x401 mm. Price: $4500.
Untitled (Belknap 28, Engberg & Banach 50). Original lithograph, 1966. Edition: 225 signed & numbered impressions. Illustrated in an exhibition catalog published by the Fort Worth Art Museum in 1985 for an exhibition of Motherwell's drawings. Image size: 556x430mm. Price: $4,100.
Untitled (V&A, pp. 318-319). Original lithograph, 1967. 2500 impressions for a memorial tribute to the poet and art-critic, Frank O'Hara. Signed in the stone. Published by The Museum of Modern Art as part of a tribute to poet and curator Frank O'Hara, who had unexpectedly died. Image size: 303x227mm. Price: SOLD.
Tricolor (Belknap 24, Appendix, Engberg & Banach 137). Original color lithograph, 1973. 125 signed & numbered impressions, 15 artist's proofs on Arches paper with large margins, and 3000 impressions signed in the stone published in XXe Siecle in 1973. The reproduced collage element is aa fragment of a Korn's lithographic ink label. Some impressions are printed on Whatman paper. Ours is a proof before the impressions were trimmed to fit into the bound volume. Image size: 311x247mm. Price: $875.
Altamira Elegy (Belknap 229, Engberg & Banach 262). Original lithograph printed in black and white from 2 aluminum plates collaged onto cream paper, 1979-80. 75 signed & numbered impressions, of which ours is n. 51/75. Arthur C. Danto discusses this work in "The 'Original Creative Principle': Motherwell and Psychic Automatism" in Rosand, 39-58: "in the lithographic Altamira Elegy [fig. 7], where the grass-style fibrilations have been exchanged for something heavy, as if deposited by a charged brush, there could be four shawled figures or four brooding trees, and there is a tense rhythm left and right and left. What gives it the elegiac feel is the heaviness, the downwardness of the forms, as if sorrow refused to let them rise. But perhaps one reads too much into it, knowing that the word 'elegy' appears in the title. The four heavy forms could be bunches of grapes or fruits on a table" (55). The Altamira Elegy was published in the deluxe edition of Reconciliation Elegy, a “photographic journal [that] records the collaboration of Robert Motherwell and his studio assistants in the creation of the artist’s monumental painting Reconciliation Elegy, a commission for the East Building, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.” According to the colophon of the deluxe edition, “The original edition of Reconciliation Elegy includes 75 copies numbered from 1 to 75, 15 artist’s proofs and 15 copies Hors Commerce numbered h.c. 1 to h.c. 15. Each of these 90 copies is accompanied by an original lithograph by Robert Motherwell signed and numbered by the artist.” The book is numbered N. 51 and so is the original lithograph, which came loosely inserted into a special flap in the inner front cover. The condition is excellent. This is a beautiful and subtle lithograph and comes with the matching copy of the book in which it was presented. After almost 30 years, it is uncommon to find both together. Image size: 101x235mm. Price: $5000.

Spaightwood Galleries, Inc.

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