b. 1915 Aberdeen, Washington, USA – d. 1991 Province Town, Massachusetts, USA
BA Stanford University
After having traveled to Europe in 1938, Motherwell settled in New York in 1940, where he entered Columbia University to study art history, after abandoning the graduate studies in Philosophy at Harvard University. Soon the artist moved to Greenwich Village and quit his academic studies to be a full-time painter. Through the abstract artist William Baziotes whom he met in 1942, Motherwell became acquainted with the Abstract Expressionists such as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hoffman, Barnette Newman and Mark Rothko.
Motherwell taught at Black Mountain College in the late 1940s and at Hunter College in New York during the 1950s. As a leading exponent of the American Abstract Expressionism, he participated in publication of the Documents of Modern Art series in 1944 and wrote for numerous books and magazines. In 1946, Motherwell had his first major solo exhibitions at the Arts Club of Chicago and the San Francisco Museum of Art, and was included in the Fourteen Americans exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In the late 1940s, he began his most well known Elegy series, 140-paintings produced over three decades, with its theme of the Spanish Civil War.
Among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell was the only artist who committed himself to printmaking. From the mid-1960s until his death, Motherwell created a large number of lithographs, aquatints, etchings and silkscreen prints. Motherwell´s work combined the gestural brushwork of action painting with the saturated hues of colourfield painting. Abstract art was an expression of his inner self and a conveyer of the universal human themes. The artist once said "Without ethical consciousness, a painter is only a decorator." ; “If the abstraction, the violence, the humanity was valid in Abstract Expressionism, then it cut out the ground from every other kind of painting."