Pollock and Motherwell: Legends of Abstract Expressionism

Exhibition Website

Jul 8 2017 - Oct 29 2017

Jackson Pollock and Robert Motherwell are two of the most celebrated American painters from the mid-20th century. The exhibition emphasizes the radical innovation of American abstraction in mainstream art by featuring two monumental paintings, Mural and Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 126. It explores legends surrounding each work and artist by unpacking fact from fiction.

Mural, Pollock’s largest-ever canvas, was commissioned in 1943 by famed art collector and dealer Peggy Guggenheim. It established a new direction of massive scale and bold freedom for the movement that came to be known as Abstract Expressionism. Techniques used in Mural foreshadow methods Pollock would later develop in his best-known “poured” paintings. In 1948 Guggenheim gifted Mural to the University of Iowa and from 2012 to 2014 the painting underwent an immense conservation effort by The Getty in Los Angeles.

One of the most elegant works in the series due to its vastness and thoughtful integration of color, Motherwell’s Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 126 is a unique salute to Pollock. In 1972 it was commissioned by the director of the University of Iowa Museum of Art to hang with and directly respond to Mural’s larger-than-life size.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website

Whether you go or not, Robert Motherwell: Elegy to the Spanish Republic explores the inextricable links between poetry, politics, writing and painting revealed in the history of Motherwell's series. This volume includes Harold Rosenberg’s “A Bird for Every Bird,” Federico García Lorca’s “Llanto por Ignacio Sánchez Mejías,” notes and writings by Motherwell on the Spanish Civil War, scholarly essays and rare archival material.

Robert Motherwell (1915–91) came to abstraction not through painting, but through philosophy, poetry and art history. While studying at Stanford, he was introduced to modernism and symbolism; Mallarmé’s dictum, “To paint, not the thing, but the effect it provides,” would prove essential in Motherwell’s work. Elegy to the Spanish Republic is perhaps the most literal example of this influence. Begun in 1948, the series, comprising some 150 canvases, was the artist’s “funeral song for something once cared about” in abstract pictorial form.

Click Robert Motherwell: Elegy to the Spanish Republic to place it in your Amazon shopping cart.

  • Painting
  • American
  • 20th Century
  • Abstraction
  • Jackson Pollock
  • Robert Motherwell

Exhibition Venues & Dates