Robert Motherwell

When the American painter Robert Motherwell created a foundation in 1981, he named it after Joyce's character Stephen Dedalus. Motherwell was twenty in 1935 when he discovered a copy of Ulysses in a Paris bookstall. The artist was searching for a key to his own modernist aesthetic, he later said, and found one in Joyce. Throughout his life, he would return to the author’s books whenever he became discouraged: “A writer like Joyce can make me just want to paint. The magic of painting is there. It gives me almost a chill what words can do.” Motherwell’s first artworks referencing the author date from the late 1940s, though it was not until publisher Andrew Hoyem commissioned this edition in the 1980s that the artist took on the entire novel. Freely responding to Joyce’s writing, Motherwell produced line etchings evocative of calligraphic scrawls.

James Joyce (1882–1941)
Ulysses. Illustrated by Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) San Francisco: Arion, 1988
The Morgan Library & Museum, gift of Sean and Mary Kelly, 2018; PML 197878
© 2022 Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY