Robert Motherwell coined the name, the New York School, of which he was a member along with Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Philip Guston. He was born in 1915 and died suddenly in 1991. As an American Abstract Expressionist, Mr. Motherwell greatly influenced numerous contemporary artists like Cy Twombly and his third wife, Helen Frankenthaler. Originally wanting to be a philosopher, he attended Stanford University and Harvard before turning to art and art theory at Columbia University with Meyer Shapiro. After much world-wide travel and study, he turned to painting full-time where he experimented with the theory of automatism that quickly became prevalent in his style of loose yet vigorous brushwork that resonated with emotion. It has been said that Mr. Motherwell wanted to evoke a moral and political experience through art. His goal was to use the staging of his work to convey to the viewer the mental and physical engagement of the artist with the canvas. In 1943, he was introduced to Peggy Guggenheim who invited him to exhibit at the Art of This Century Gallery. He has exhibited internationally, won innumerous awards including the National Medal of Arts, wrote and lectured world-wide, and served on the board of many art publications. What set him apart from his peers was his avid printmaking and deep interest in writing. Mr. Motherwell’s writings are often considered a bridge for those who want to learn more about non-representational art but are uninterested in dense art criticism.
“Abstract art is uniquely modern. It is a fundamentally romantic response to modern life – rebellious, individualistic, unconventional, sensitive, and irritable. Nothing as drastic an innovation as abstract art could have come into existence, save as the consequence to a most profound, restless, unquenchable need.”
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