Robert Motherwell was by far the most intellectual and articulate of the Abstract Expressionists. This book, written by a friend of the artist, the well-known writer and critic Mary Ann Caws, examines Motherwell’s way of thinking and writing in relation to his paintings. The artist, American by birth, yet simultaneously American and European in his way of visualizing and vocalizing artistic and philosophical traditions, always worked between these two poles, and it is this tension that imbues his œuvre with its particular intensity.
The author bases her analysis of Motherwell on the artist’s own writings and readings, as well as on extensive conversations and interviews with him. She considers his work and interests in relation to those of other Abstract Expressionists as well as to the work of the Surrealists. Her book highlights his deep attraction to France and French literature and art, and his concern with the idea of elegy and the tragedy of the Spanish Civil War. His singularly American spirit provided him with a manner of painting and thinking unique among the Abstract Expressionists, as well as with a distinctive and highly personal filter through which to interpret his fascination with European literature and history.