Robert Motherwell’s history is as fascinating as his art, and indeed the two often interlink. There is a Scottish connection, with his father’s name being Robert Burns Motherwell and indeed Robert Motherwell, along with his father and sister, actually visited the town of Motherwell in Lanarkshire in Scotland at the end of a European tour when he was 20 years old. I wonder what he thought of the place – this would have been around 1935 when Motherwell was a major industrial town, indeed the largest centre of steel production in Scotland – a far cry from the beauty of those other places they had visited such as Paris and London. A few years later, Motherwell visited Mexico in the company of artist Roberto Matta, on a boat where he met the actress Maria Emilia Ferreira y Moyeros, who became his wife and some of the sketches he made there inspired some of his early paintings including ‘The Little Spanish Prison’ and ‘Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive’.
Later, Motherwell returned to an international theme when in 1964 he created the immense painting ‘Dublin 1916, with Black and Tan’ which was said to create modern equivalent to Picasso’s ‘Guernica’, with his series ‘Elegy to the Spanish Republic’ and his series ‘Lyric Suite’, created on Japanese rice paper and named after the string quartet of the American composer Alban Berg, whom he had met when he spent a year in Paris during his time studying at Harvard University.
One of the giants of American modern art, with many different influences in his work, the versatility the different themes that he encompassed were on show in a splendid exhibition in the semi-industrial spaces of the Bernard Jacobson gallery, which has a tradition of specialising in prints, with interesting connections between his work and the green shopfront of Fortnum & Mason across Duke Street.
The latest exhibition at the gallery – a Spring Mixed Show – is available online, along with the catalogue, here, including work by Bram Bogart, who recently had an exhibition a stone’s throw away from the gallery at the White Cube in Mason’s Yard.