Robert Motherwell, ‘Je t'aime No. III with Loaf of Bread’, 1955, Dedalus Foundation

The loaf of bread in the title of this painting alludes to two works that were important to Motherwell: Paul Eluard’s “Je t’aime” and Paul Valéry’s “Palme.” Both are love poems that contain memorable evocations of bread. Eluard speaks of “the smell of the high seas and the smell of warm bread, and Valéry writes about how “An angel on my table lays / A bowl of milk, a loaf of bread.” The painted imagery conveys a visual equivalent for the tone of plaintive tenderness conveyed by both poems.

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Private collection

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