Robert Motherwell, ‘Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive’, 1943, Dedalus Foundation

The rough handling of the physical elements in this collage is very much in keeping with its violent
subject matter, the assassination of the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. When the picture was finished Motherwell noted how the splotches of red paint had bled through the paper, and how violently he had torn it, and it was only then that the title suddenly came to him. He later described the picture as representing Villa dead in his coffin on the left, his body full of bloodstains and bullet holes, and
standing alive on the right, surrounded by Mexican wallpaper.

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

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase

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