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Biography of Robert Motherwell

See works in the collection

b. 1915, Aberdeen, Washington | d. 1991, Provincetown, Massachusetts

1915
Born on January 24.
1926
At the age of eleven, receives a scholarship from the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles.
1932
Studies briefly at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Enrolls at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, where he studies philosophy and modern French literature, graduating five years later.
1937
Hears André Malraux speak about the Spanish Civil War at a large convention in San Francisco. Continues to study philosophy at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but leaves after a year.
1938
Takes a long trip around Europe. After studying for a summer in Grenoble, rents a studio in Paris.
1939
Holds his first solo exhibition, at Galerie Raymond Duncan in Paris. Studies sporadically at the Académie Julian in Paris.
1940
Moves to New York. Enrolls at Columbia University, where he studies art history with Meyer Schapiro.
1941
Takes a six-month trip to Mexico with Roberto Matta. Begins to use automatism as a means of pictorial creation.
1942
Motherwell's work is featured in the exhibition The First Papers of Surrealism at the Whitelaw Reid Mansion in New York. Serves on the editorial board of the Surrealist magazine VVV.
1943
Creates his first collages.
1944
Begins editing the series of books entitled Documents of Modern Art. Exhibits at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century in New York.
1945
Signs an exclusive contract with Samuel Kootz Gallery in New York. Moves to East Hampton, New York. Teaches summer school at Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina.
1946
Meets Herbert Ferber, Barnett Newman, and Mark Rothko. Exhibits at the Arts Club of Chicago and the San Francisco Museum of Art.
Included in an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Fourteen Americans.
1947
Together with John Cage, Pierre Chareau, and Harold Rosenberg, founds the magazine Possibilities, of which only one issue will be published.
1948
With David Hare, William Baziotes, and Mark Rothko, founds the Subjects of the Artist School. Begins working on the Elegies to the Spanish Republic series.
1950
Begins teaching painting at Hunter College in New York, which he will continue to do until 1958.
1951
Teaches summer school at Black Mountain College. Robert Rauschenberg and Cy Twombly are among his students.
1957
Signs with the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.
1958
Motherwell's work is included in New American Painting at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Travels to France and Spain, where he begins the Iberia series.
1959
Participates in Documenta 2 in Kassel, Germany.
1961
A retrospective of Motherwell's work is featured in the VI Bienal de São Paulo.
1964
Participates in Documenta 3 in Kassel, Germany.
1965
The Museum of Modern Art in New York mounts a major exhibition of Motherwell's work that later travels to Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Essen, and Turin. Creates the Lyric Suite series, more than five hundred automatic paintings on Japanese rice paper.
1966
Creates a mural for the John F. Kennedy Federal Building in Boston.
1967
Begins working on the Open series.
1969
Elected a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in New York.
1970
Moves to Greenwich, Connecticut.
1972
Illustrates Rafael Alberti's book A la pintura.
1974
Exhibits at Knoedler and Co. in New York and holds exhibitions in London and Zurich.
1975
The Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City holds a major retrospective of Motherwell's work.
1976
The Städtische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf organizes a retrospective of Motherwell's work that later travels to the Museum des 20. Jahrhunderts in Vienna.
1977
A retrospective of Motherwell's work is held at the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. Commissioned to create a large mural for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. Receives the Grande Médaille de Vermeil de la Ville de Paris.
1978
Exhibits at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
1979
The William Benton Museum of Art at the University of Connecticut in Storrs holds a retrospective of Motherwell's work. Receives the Medal of Honor of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
1980
Motherwell's work is shown at the Fundación Juan March in Madrid and the Fundació “la Caixa” in Barcelona. The Universidad de Salamanca awards him an honorary doctorate.
1981
Receives the Mayor's Award for Arts and Culture from the city of New York and the Skowhegan Award for engraving.
1983
The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, holds a retrospective exhibition of Motherwell's work that will travel to museums in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and New York over the next two years.
1985
Named a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
1986
Awarded the Medalla de Oro al Mérito en las Bellas Artes by the Spanish Ministry of Culture.
1990
Receives the National Medal of Arts at the White House in Washington, D.C.
1991
A major exhibition of Motherwell's work is shown at the Museo Rufino Tamayo in Mexico City and travels afterwards to the Museo de Monterrey and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Dies on July 16.
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