Robert Motherwell

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Robert Motherwell
Ink and watercolor on paper.
12 x 9 1/8 inches (30.5 x 23.2 mm)
Gift of Laura Kuhn.

One of the youngest artists associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement, Motherwell began dedicating himself to painting in 1941, after studying philosophy and art history. This early drawing reveals the influence of European Cubism and geometric abstraction. A few months before making it, Motherwell had published an admiring review of a Mondrian exhibition (VVV, June 1942). Eventually Motherwell combined abstraction with Surrealism, which he discovered through his contacts with the artists in exile in New York during World War II, notably Chilean Roberto Matta. The arrangement of black lines in the present work may also be a reference to Picasso's 1938 paintings and drawings in which a dense, black linear design suggests chair caning or basketwork. This little-known drawing was a gift from Motherwell to the composer John Cage, perhaps at the time both men were collaborating as editors of the short-lived magazine Possibilities, in 1947.


Recto: signed at lower right, Motherwell 42. Signed and dated on verso center, Robert Motherwell / December 1942.

The artist to John Cage; by gift to Laura Kuhn, from whom acquired by the Morgan.
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