Robert Motherwell (American, 1915-1991)
oil on canvas, Framed: 181 x 196 x 4 cm (71 1/4 x 77 1/8 x 1 9/16 in.); Unframed: 178.1 x 193.7 cm (70 1/16 x 76 1/4 in.). Contemporary Collection of The Cleveland Museum of Art 1963.583
This powerful, abstract composition is from a series that expressed Motherwell's response to the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) and the struggle against fascism. "The Elegies reflect the internationalist in me, interested in the historical forces of the 20th century, with strong feelings about the conflicting forces in it," he once explained. These paintings, created from 1948 through the mid-1960s, are characterized by a strictly defined visual vocabulary of shape and color opposites, modified on each canvas to produce varied effects. Here the bold, black ovals and vertical rectangular bars press against one another in front of a background of sweeping white brushstrokes with occasional touches of orange. Although the surface is relatively even and opaque, subtle variations in tone, value, and texture are evident. The contrasts of form and color suggest metaphors for war and peace, life and death, freedom and oppression.
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