Robert Motherwell, ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic XXXIV’, 1953 -1954, Dedalus Foundation

In Motherwell’s first Elegy painting, At Five in the Afternoon, the small scale and the reference to a specific poem created an effect of psychological as well as physical intimacy – experienced somewhat
like a poem being read silently. The much larger Elegies that followed – such as this one – are often
more like poems being recited aloud, bold and open in statement, strong in volume. This is the first
large numbered painting in the series, and was the largest Elegy to date, impressive the firmness of its architecture and the breadth of its utterance. The colors in the left vertical band recall those of the flag of the Second Spanish Republic (1931–39).

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Image rights: © Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA. New York, NY

Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, N.Y. Gift of Seymour H. Knox Jr., 1957

About Robert Motherwell

Alongside Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell is considered one of the great American Abstract Expressionist painters. His esteemed intellect not only undergirded his gorgeous, expressive paintings—frequently featuring bold black shapes against fields of color—but also made Motherwell one of the leading writers, theorists, and advocates of the New York School. He forged close friendships with the European Surrealists and other intellectuals over his interests in poetry and philosophy, and as such served as a vital link between the pre-war avant-garde in Europe and its post-war counterpart in New York, establishing automatism and psychoanalysis as central concerns of American abstraction. "It's not that the creative act and the critical act are simultaneous," Motherwell said. "It's more like you blurt something out and then analyze it.

American, 1915-1991, Aberdeen, Washington, based in New York and Greenwich, Connecticut