© Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2019

The Wedding, 1958

Robert Motherwell (1915–1991, USA)

Medium: Acrylic on canvas
Dimensions: 177.1 x 193 cm

about the work

With Robert Motherwell, not only is one of the great artists of abstract expressionism included in the Reinhard Ernst Collection, but also an important art theorist and teacher. Motherwell studied philosophy, French literature, painting and finally art history. In the early 1940s, at the urging of his teacher Meyer Schapiro, he then devoted himself entirely to painting. Following his first exhibition in Paris in 1938, he held another solo exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim’s New York gallery in 1944, which resulted in the Museum of Modern Art purchasing one of his works. Various teaching positions at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina and Hunter College in New York as well as his work on the Documents of Modern Art illustrate his theoretical engagement with contemporary art. His decisive role in abstract expressionism was confirmed by his participation in the exhibitions »Four Abstract Expressionists« (1953) and »The New American Painting« (1958) at the New York Museum of Modern Art and his shows at the documenta I and II in Kassel as well as the Venice Biennale in 1976.

Several of his extensive series of works are remarkable. From 1948 to 1991, he created the Elegies to the Spanish Republic series with more than 100 works, he worked on the Open series from 1967 to 1980, which includes around 200 works. Another defining characteristic of his career was his relationship with Helen Frankenthaler, who Robert Motherwell met on a trip to Europe in 1956. They married in 1958 and divorced in 1971. In the work included in the Reinhard Ernst Collection, Robert Motherwell reflects on his wedding with the artist and provides an insight into the cooperative relationship between artists at the same time, which lasted for more than a decade. While mainly subdued colours and black predominated in his œuvre, he grew closer to colour field painting during this period. His work is impressive especially due to its restraint. Motherwell avoided displays of boldness and stated his case instead with his discreet handling of form and colour. Motherwell’s main focus was always on the contemplative effect of his works on the viewer.

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