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Robert Motherwell

Orange Personage

oil and sand on canvas
139,1 x 94 cm / 54 3/4 x 37 in.

When Robert Motherwell was a child, he suffered from asthma, so his parents moved to California with him, where the climate was warm and dry. The wide open spaces, blue sky, and ochre hills later inspired his abstract paintings. The orange and ochre colours of the present painting reflect that. After his studies at Stanford and Harvard, Motherwell moved to New York to continue studying at Columbia University with famed art historian Meyer Schapiro. He introduced Motherwell to a group of Surrealists, who had fled Paris: Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, and André Masson. Their art was his first great influence. He travelled to Mexico with Roberto Matta, where he met Wolfgang Paalen, who became another important influence. He stayed with Paalen for several months, working in his studio. Upon his return, Motherwell decided that it was time for a new artistic movement. He visited Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann and others. Peggy Guggenheim agreed to organize their first exhibition. She also gave him the first solo exhibition in 1944, the year the Museum of Modern Art acquired his painting “Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive” of 1943. In 1948 he founded the “Subject of the Artist School” with William Baziotes, David Hare, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Motherwell’s art was informed by many avant-garde artistic movements, such as Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, Colour Field Painting and Informel. But from all these, he developed his own unmistakeable painting style, which shows the artist’s outstanding intellect in the simple shapes, the daring colours, and the fine equilibrium of his works.

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