Robert Motherwell (January 24, 1915 – July 16, 1991) was an American abstract expressionist painter, printmaker, and editor. He was one of the youngest of the New York School, which also included Philip Guston, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Mark Rothko.
Trained in philosophy, Motherwell became an artist, regarded as among the most articulate of the abstract expressionist painters. He was known for his series of abstract paintings and prints which touched on political, philosophical and literary themes, such as the Elegies to the Spanish Republic.
Motherwell died in Provincetown, Massachusetts on July 16, 1991. On his death, Clement Greenberg, champion of the New York School, left in little doubt his esteem for the artist, commenting that “although he is underrated today, in my opinion he was one of the very best of the abstract expressionist painters”.
The Dedalus Foundation was set up by Robert Motherwell in 1981 to foster public understanding of modern art and modernism through its support of research, education, publications, and exhibitions. When Motherwell died, he left an estate then estimated at more than $25 million and more than 1,000 works of art, not including prints. His will was filed for probate in Greenwich and named as executors his widow, Renate Ponsold Motherwell, and longtime friend Richard Rubin, a professor of political science at Swarthmore College.
On July 20, 1991, several hundred people attended a memorial service for Motherwell on the beach outside his Provincetown home. Among them were the writer Norman Mailer and the photographer Joel Meyerowitz, both Provincetown summer residents. Speakers included the poet Stanley Kunitz, who read a poem that was a favorite of Motherwell’s, William Butler Yeats’s Sailing to Byzantium. Others in attendance included family members, friends, other artists, and Senator Howard Metzenbaum, an acquaintance of Motherwell’s.