Robert Motherwell, ‘Gauloises with Scarlet No. 1’, 1972, Dedalus Foundation

This collage initiated an extended series in which the deep blues of the torn Gauloises cigarette packages are set against brilliant red painted grounds. When several of these are seen together they have an effect similar to musical themes and variations: the different positions of the blue papers create effects similar to ways in which the rhythmic and chordal variations in musical compositions can be played against the “ground” of a figured bass. Such variations in the visual equivalents of tempo, chordal structure, rhythmic juxtaposition, and even melodic placement of forms were to become one of the most striking characteristics of Motherwell’s collage series during the following years.

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Marilyn and Charles Baillie

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