The youngest of all the Abstract Expressionists, Robert Motherwell was a major force in American art for nearly fifty years and is renown to this day for his international stature as a painter, collagist, and printmaker. One of the most celebrated artists of the post-war period, Motherwell pioneered Abstract Expressionism alongside Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline, becoming an artist of international stature. His career encompassed more than five decades, and he received virtually every honor accorded to an artist. His work has been the subject of countless museum exhibitions and publications.
In Untitled 1985 Motherwell uses this innovative process of tearing paper in order to create an Abstract expressionist masterpiece. This action is echoed in blunt scribbles of oil stick and gestural strokes of charcoal masked over in a golden hue. Motherwell’s layered sheets of painted paper allude to the precedence of color field painting and add a low relief quality to the piece. For him, the creation of abstract art was a personal journey and the result of personal crisis. Motherwell viewed the conditions of modern society as having a direct consequence on the Abstract Expressionist’s fundamental evolution: “Nothing as drastic an innovation as abstract art could have come in to existence, save as the consequence of a most profound, relentless, unquenchable need. The need is for felt experience-intense, immediate, direct subtle, unified, warm, vivid, rhythmic.”
M. Knoedler & Co., New York
Private collection, California, 1988
Anon. sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 10 November 2004, lot 288
Private collection, London, 2005
J. Flam, K. Rogers, and T. Clifford, eds., Robert Motherwell: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941-1991, Volume 3: Collages and Paintings on Paper and Paperboard, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 322, no. C719 (illustrated).