Robert Motherwell: Beside the Sea

On view July 20-September 30, 2012

The exhibition, organized by the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), with loans from 10 private and 6 museum collections (High Museum, Newark Museum, Weisman Foundation, Yale University Art Gallery, Smith College, Mount Holyoke College) occupied two of the museum’s five galleries from July 20 –September 30, 2012. It featured approximately 21 paintings and 3 collages by Motherwell that were created in Provincetown. Starting in the early 1950s, the artist spent summers painting in Provincetown—a place of abundant inspiration, whether in isolated contemplation of the environment or in interaction with the town’s vibrant arts colony. His daughter Jeannie wrote (in Provincetown Arts, 2008), “Dad was most prolific in his Provincetown studio. Spending only 4 months of the year there, he produced more work than he did in any other of his studios or at any other time of year.” According to the artist, “The first time I saw Provincetown, I knew it was for me.”

Here, Motherwell produced his Beside the Sea series, one of his most important bodies of work. He also continued to develop the Elegies to the Spanish Republic series, which is widely regarded as his most significant contribution to twentieth century art. Originally intended as a tribute to the brief Spanish republic, these works became, in the artist’s words, “general metaphors of the contract between life and death, and their interrelation” and remained a significant focus for the artist until his death in Provincetown in 1991. Painting and making collages in his Provincetown studio (where he introduced the option of tearing rather than cutting the edges of his papers), Motherwell also pursued printmaking, becoming the only artist among the original Abstract Expressionists to explore this medium in depth.

Image: Robert Motherwell, Provincetown Bay, 1990, PAAM Collection, Gift of the Dedalus Foundation, Inc. in honor of Lise and Jeannie Motherwell