One day when I was working at Perrot Library, I spotted a man who looked very familiar. I couldn't quite place him. Then someone told me that it was artist Robert Motherwell. The reason I recognized him was because I had seen his picture in the local paper.
Robert Motherwell was born in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1915 to Robert Burns Motherwell and Margaret Hogan Motherwell. The family moved to California in 1918, to Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1919 and back to California in 1926. He attended the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles on a scholarship, and enrolled in a Prep School in Atascadero. For a short time, he studied at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Stanford University awarded him a BA in philosophy in 1937. He studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Philosophy.
SOURCE: Australian Government
In 1938, Motherwell traveled to Paris, where he studied French literature and painted. His first solo exhibit was at the Galerie Duncan in Paris. He returned to New York in 1940 where he studied art history at Columbia. Peggy Guggenheim granted Motherwell a solo exhibition at her Art of This Century Gallery in New York in 1944. The following yesr, he moved to East Hampton to establish a painting studio and write about modern art. By 1950, he had been appointed to the graduate faculty at Hunter College. He moved back to New York City in 1953, and spent his summers painting in Provincetown MA. Even when he moved to Greenwich in 1970, he still kept a studio house on the Cape.
Motherwell is considered one of the pioneers of the expressionistic aesthetic style. This was the product of the confusing and uncertain times following World War II. It's style communicated emptiness and despair. It gave rise to Abstract Expressionism, and utilized a large scale and explosive style. Motherwell began painting a series on sky and water, which is believed to have been triggered by waves crashing against the stairs of his Provincetown studio. He was so successful in his work that his works were exhibited around the world in such places as Amsterdam, Brussells and Madrid.
Needless to say, Robert Motherwell received many awards including:
1969 - Elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters
1979 - Received Gold Medal of Honor from Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
1980 - Awarded the Medal of Merit from the University of Salamanca in Spain
1985 - Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1990 - Received the National Medal of Arts
Ironically, Robert Motherwell died suddenly of a stroke in Provincetown in 1991. He died on the way to the hospital. The world lost one of its great art history experts, and Greenwich lost a valuable citizen.