ROBERT MOTHERWELL

American (1915-1991)

THE TIMES IN HAVANA, 1979
acrylic and collage on canvas board
24 x 12 inches

BIOGRAPHY

1915
Born January 24 in Aberdeen, Washington

1918
Family moves to California

1919-26
Family relocates to Salt Lake City, UT

1926
Family moves permanently to California. Receives scholarship to Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles, CA

1929-32
Attends Moran Preparatory School, Atascadero, CA

1932-37
Studies painting briefly at California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco before attending Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA. Receives Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy

1937
Attends Harvard University, Cambridge, MA for graduate studies in philosophy

1938
Travels in Europe. Spends summer at University of Grenoble, France. Rents studio in Paris from October 1938 to July 1939

1940
Returns to United States. Enters Department of Art History and Archeology at Columbia University, New York, NY, as graduate student under Professor Meyer Schapiro who encourages him to paint in addition to introducing him to European artists in exile

1941
Travels to Mexico with Chilean Surrealist painter Roberto Matta. Does “automatic” drawings and paints first major paintings including The Little Spanish Prison. Meets actress Maria Emilia Ferreira y Moyers whom he marries the following year. Returns to New York in December; moves into Perry Street apartment in Greenwich Village, NY

1942
Permanently abandons university studies in favor of painting. Spends first summer in Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA. Collaborates on first Surrealist magazine VVV.
Included in “First Papers of Surrealism exhibition,” Whitelaw Reid Mansion, New York, NY

1943
Father dies. Makes first collages. Spends second summer in Provincetown, MA

1944
First solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery Art of This Century, New York, NY. The Museum of Modern Art purchases Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive. Edits and directs The Documents of Modern Art series. Writes for Partisan Review

1945
Studies engraving with Stanley William Hayter. Signs exclusive contract with Samuel Kootz Gallery, New York. Spends spring in Florida with William Baziotes, interested in the southern light; becomes friendly with Adolph Gottlieb. Teaches during summer at Black Mountain College, North Carolina. Moves to East Hampton, Long Island, NY, where he buys a studio designed by architect Pierre Chareau

1946
Meets Mark Rothko in East Hampton. Included in “Fourteen Americans” exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

1947
Included in Introduction to American Painting at Galerie Maeght, Paris, France.
Collaborates with John Cage, Pierre Chareau and Harold Rosenberg in publishing Possibilities

1948
First use of image to later become motif for Elegy to the Spanish Republic. Creates informal school The Subjects of the Artist with Rothko, Baziotes and Hare in New York. (School closes in May 1949.) Divorces Maria Emilia Ferreira y Moyers

1950
Appointed to graduate faculty at Hunter College, New York, where he teaches until 1958. Meets David Smith. Joins “The Irascibles.” Marries Betty Little

1951
Teaches during summer at Black Mountain College; Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly are students. Writes The School of New York for the Frank Perls Gallery, New York. Lectures at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Boston, MA

1953
Daughter Jeannie is born

1955
Daughter Lise is born

1957
Sidney Janis Gallery becomes his exclusive dealer. Separates from Betty Little

1958
Spends summer in Spain and France. Begins Iberia series of black paintings.
Marries Helen Frankenthaler

1960
Interviewed by David Sylvester for BBC; Painting as a Self Discovery. Interview published in Metro magazine as “Painting as Existence” (a title preferred by Motherwell). Included in panel on The Concept of the New with Philip Guston, Ad Reinhardt, Harold Rosenberg and Jack Tworkov at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art. Spends summer in Italy; starts Summertime in Italy series

1961
Begins to make prints at Tatyana Grosman’s Universal Limited Art Editions Studio, West Islip, Long Island, NY. Retrospective exhibition at VI Bienal de Arte, Sao Paulo, Brazil

1963
Marlborough-Gerson Gallery becomes his exclusive dealer. Visits London and Paris. Spends summer in Provincetown, MA

1964
Visits Paris, Venice and London. Awarded 4th Guggenheim International Award, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY

1965
Interview with Byron Robertson shown on New York City Educational Television. Signs several protests against the war in Vietnam. Creates Lyric Suite (565 “automatic” paintings in ink on Japanese rice paper). Closest friend, David Smith killed in automobile accident; designated as executor of Smith’s estate. Visits Paris, Venice, Dubrovnik, Athens, Greek Islands and London with family during summer. Retrospective exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY which travels to museums in Amsterdam, London, Brusells, Essen and Turin through 1966

1966
Executes very large mural for John F. Kennedy Federal Building, Boston, MA

1967
Begins Open series. Illustrates edition of poems by Rimbaud for The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. (Project is abandoned.) Becomes Fellow in Perpetuity of Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY

1968
Becomes Benjamin Franklin Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, London. Makes silkscreen prints for Spoleto Festival. Lectures on Dada and Surrealism at the Art Institute of Chicago. Summer in Provincetown, MA; Mark Rothko rents a place nearby. Joins in number of protests against Vietnam war

1969
Creates silkscreen for International Rescue committee. Elected to National Institute of Arts and Letters, New York, NY. Separates from Helen Frankenthaler

1970
Moves his principal studio and residence from New York City to Greenwich, CT, but retains his Provincetown studio and residence for the summers. Death of friend Mark Rothko. Lectures at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY: “The Nature of Abstraction.” Lectures at Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT. Conducts seminar with Anthony Caro and Alex Colville at Toronto University, examining position of contemporary art in English-speaking countries

1972
Completes Livre de peintre, A la Pintura, illustrating poems by Rafael Alberti published by Universal Limited Art Editions, Long Island, NY. Lawrence Rubin becomes his exclusive dealer. Exhibitions at Knoedler and Co., in New York, London and Zurich. Kenneth Tyler becomes his major collaborator in lithography. Begins In Plato’s Cave series. Marries photographer Renate Ponsold

1973
Purchases etching press, begins making his own editions in Greenwich studio with Catherine Mousley. Receives Honorary doctorate from Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY

1974
Creates paintings The Persian and The Spartan. Severe illness and radical surgery

1975
Retrospective exhibition at the Museo de Art Moderna, Mexico City, Mexico

1976
Retrospective exhibitions in Dusseldorf, Germany and Stockholm, Sweden. Television interview by Robert Hughes for BBC London. Wine label commissioned by Baron Philippe de Rothschild

1977
Retrospective exhibitions in Vienna, Edinburgh and Paris. Receives Grande Medaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris. Begins mural commissioned by National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

1978
Retrospective exhibition, Royal Academy of Arts, London, England

1979
Receives Gold Medal of Honor from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA. Retrospective exhibition at William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

1980
Retrospective exhibitions in Barcelona and Madrid. Awarded Gold Medal of Merit from University of Salamanque, Spain. Received Honorary Doctorate from Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI. Graphics Retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY organized by the American Federation of the Arts

1981
Receives Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture of the City of New York. Receives Showhegan Award for Printmaking

1982
Dedication of the Motherwell Gallery (in perpetuity) at the Bavarian State Museum of Modern Art, Munich, Germany. Lectures at University of Munich; excerpts published in Die Kunst; complete text published in Munchner Jahrbuch der Bildenden Kunste

1983
Receives Gold Medal of Honor, The National Arts Club, New York, NY. Retrospective of 100 major works at the Albright-Know Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

1985
Awarded Macdowell Colony Medal of Honor, Peterborough, NH and Great Artist Series Award, New York University. Elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Cambridge, MA. Receives Honorary Doctorates from Brown University, Providence, RI and Hunter College, The City University of New York, New York, NY

1986
Elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY. Awarded Medallo d’Oro de Bellas Artes, Madrid, Spain

1987
Receives Wallace Award from American Scottish Foundation, New York, NY

1988
Elected Officier de L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, Ministry of Culture, Paris, France

1989
Receives Centennial Medal of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

1990
Receives National Medal of Arts at the White House. Receives Harvard Centennial Medal

1991
Dies in July. Retrospective at the Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; subsequently shown at the Museum de Monterey, Monterey, Mexico; Fort Worth Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX. Publication of The Prints of Robert Motherwell by Hudson Hills Press in association with the American Federation of the Arts