Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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The Homely Protestant

Artist:
Robert Motherwell (American, Aberdeen, Washington 1915–1991 Provincetown, Massachusetts)
Date:
1948
Medium:
Oil and tempera on composition board
Dimensions:
97 3/4 x 48 1/4in. (248.3 x 122.6cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of the artist, 1987
Accession Number:
1987.60
Rights and Reproduction:
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 920
Of all the Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell was the closest to the émigré Surrealists, many of whom had sought refuge in New York at the outset of World War II. The Surrealists' practice of automatism, where spontaneous marks are used to create shapes and organize composition, had inspired Motherwell's earlier collage work. In this painting, Surrealism's influence is also made clear in Motherwell's often-repeated story about its title: "I could not find a title for possibly my single most important 'figure' painting. Then I remembered a Surrealist custom… to take a favorite book and place one's finger at random in it…" Choosing James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake (1939), Motherwell found "the homely protestant" and, the Episcopalian artist continued, "I thought, 'Of course, it is a self-portrait.'"
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): 48/ Motherwell; inscribed (verso): THE HOMELY/PROTESTANT/ FEBRUARY 48/MAY 1948
the artist, New York (1948–87; his gift to MMA)

New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "Robert Motherwell: Paintings, Drawings, and Collages," April 1–19, 1952, not in catalogue.

Cincinnati Art Museum. "Purchase Exhibition," April 29–May 26, 1952, no. 23 (lent by Kootz Gallery, New York).

Arts Club of Chicago. "Exhibition: Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, William Baziotes, Hans Hofmann," January 14–February 4, 1953, no. 13.

Minneapolis. Walker Art Center. "Four Abstract Expressionists," February 15–March 15, 1953, unnumb. brochure.

Salt Lake City. University of Utah Department of Art. "Nine American Artists: The Fourth Annual Invitational Exhibition of the University of Utah Department of Art," March 2–23, 1958, unnumbered cat. (as "Homely Protestant," lent by the Sidney Janis Gallery).

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. "New York and Paris Painting in the Fifties," January 16–February 8, 1959, unnumbered cat. (lent by Sidney Janis Gallery, N.Y.C.).

Cleveland Museum of Art. "Paths of Abstract Art," October 5–November 13, 1960, no. 54 (lent by the artist).

Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo. "VI Bienal do Museu de Arte Moderna, São Paulo," September 10–December 3, 1961, no. 6 (as "O protestante feioso, The Homely Protestant," lent by the artist).

Pasadena Art Museum. "Robert Motherwell: A Retrospective Exhibition," February 18–March 11, 1962, no. 10 (lent by the artist).

Northampton, Mass. Smith College Museum of Art. "An Exhibition of the Work of Robert Motherwell," January 10–28, 1963, no. 3 (lent by the artist).

Philadelphia. Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania. "The Decisive Years, 1943–1953," January 14–March 1, 1965, unnumbered cat. (lent by the artist).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Robert Motherwell," September 29–November 29, 1965, no. 20 (lent by the artist).

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Robert Motherwell," January 7–February 27, 1966, no. 19 (lent by the artist).

London. Whitechapel Gallery. "Robert Motherwell," March 17–April 17, 1966, no catalogue.

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. "Robert Motherwell," May 5–June 5, 1966, no catalogue.

Essen. Museum Folkwang. "Robert Motherwell: Gemälde, Collagen, Zeichnungen," July 2–August 14, 1966, no. 19 (lent by the artist).

Turin. Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna. "Robert Motherwell," September 27–October 30, 1966, no. 19 (lent by the artist).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970," October 18, 1969–February 1, 1970, no. 255 (as "Homely Protestant," lent by Helen Frankenthaler, New York).

Art Museum, Princeton University. "Robert Motherwell: Recent Work," January 5–February 17, 1973, no. 18 (lent by the artist).

Albany. New York State Museum. "New York: The State of the Art," October 8–November 27, 1977 (checklist no. 538.5, lent by the artist).

Cleveland Museum of Art. "The Spirit of Surrealism," October 3–November 25, 1979, no. 92 (lent by a private collection, Connecticut).

Buffalo. Albright-Knox Art Gallery. "Robert Motherwell," October 1–November 27, 1983, no. 16 (lent by the artist, on loan to The Cleveland Museum of Art).

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Robert Motherwell," January 5–March 4, 1984, no. 16.

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. "Robert Motherwell," April 12–June 3, 1984, no. 16.

Seattle Art Museum. "Robert Motherwell," June 21–August 5, 1984, no. 16.

Washington, D.C. Corcoran Gallery of Art. "Robert Motherwell," September 15–November 4, 1984, no. 16.

New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Robert Motherwell," December 7, 1984–February 3, 1985, no. 16.

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. "Revolt in Boston: Fear vs. Freedom," February 18–April 20, 1986, not in catalogue.

East Hampton. Guild Hall. "Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952," August 9–October 13, 2014, no. 5.

Clement Greenberg. "Art." Nation 166 (May 29, 1948), p. 613.

William C. Seitz. "Abstract–Expressionist Painting in America: An Interpretation Based on the Work and Thought of Six Key Figures." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1955, p. 65.

E. C. Goossen. "Robert Motherwell and the Seriousness of Subject." Art International 3, nos. 1–2 (1959), p. 34.

Edward B. Henning. Paths of Abstract Art. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1960, pp. 36–37, no. 54, ill.

Robert Motherwell. An Exhibition of the Work of Robert Motherwell. Exh. cat., Smith College Museum of Art. Northampton, Mass., 1963, unpaginated, no. 3, ill.

Frieda Grayzel in Within the Easel Convention: Sources of Abstract–Expressionism. Exh. cat., Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums. Cambridge, 1964, p. 35.

Lucy R. Lippard. "New York Letter: Miro and Motherwell." Art International 9 (December 20, 1965), pp. 33–34, calls it "Homely Protestant".

William Berkson. "In the Museums: Recent Exhibitions." Arts Magazine 40 (December 1965), p. 42.

Jürgen Claus. "Robert Motherwell–Grundtypen Seines Werkes." Das Kunstwerk 18 (February 1965), p. 3.

Kynaston McShine in Frank O'Hara. Robert Motherwell. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 1965, p. 77, ill. p. 19.

Andrew Hudson. "Hanging Dims Motherwell Show." Washington Post (October 10, 1965), p. G7.

H. H. Arnason. "On Robert Motherwell and His Early Work." Art International 10 (January 20, 1966), p. 35, fig. 18.

H. H. Arnason. "Robert Motherwell: The Years 1948 to 1965." Art International 10 (April 20, 1966), pp. 19, 27, 38–39.

Bryan Robertson. "From a Notebook on Robert Motherwell." Studio International 171 (March 1966), p. 90, calls it "Homely Protestant".

Luigi Mallé. Robert Motherwell. Exh. cat., Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna. Turin, 1966, pp. 11, 16, no. 19, fig. 17 (color).

Henry Geldzahler. New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1969, p. 54, no. 232, ill.

H. H. Arnason. "Motherwell: The Window and the Wall." Art News 68 (Summer 1969), p. 64, suggests this painting was inspired by Picassos "The Studio" (1928, Guggenheim Museum, New York) which he saw in Peggy Guggenheim's collection.

Barbara Rose. "Art: Opennes and Robert Motherwell, 'An Infallible Eye'." Vogue 154 (August 1, 1969), p. 62, states that the artist's later "Open" paintings are clearly related to this early work.

Rosalind Krauss. "Robert Motherwell's New Paintings." Artforum 7 (May 1969), p. 27.

"'It's All a Question of Light and Air and Whiteness' Say the Robert Motherwells of the Two Houses They Have Created Together." House & Garden 136 (July 1969), p. 49, ill. pp. 48, 51 (color, installation photos).

Harry B. Titus in Robert Motherwell: Recent Work. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1973, p. 26.

Deborah P. Strom in Robert Motherwell: Recent Work. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1973, pp. 50, 72, no. 18, ill. p. 51.

Frank O'Hara. Art Chronicles 1954–1966. New York, 1975, ill. p. 10 (installation photo Exh. New York 1965).

Robert C. Hobbs. "Motherwell's Concern with Death in Painting: An Investigation of His Elegies to the Spanish Republic, Including an Examination of His Philosophical and Methodological Considerations." PhD diss., University of North Carolina, 1975, pp. 20, 172, 233.

Barbara Catoir. "Überwindung der weißen Fläche: Ein Gespräch mit Robert Motherwell." Das Kunstwerk 29 (November 1976), p. 8, calls it "Homely Protestant".

H. H. Arnason. "Robert Motherwell: 1966–1976." Art International 20 (October–November 1976), pp. 25, 55–56.

Peter Winter. "Robert Motherwell." Das Kunstwerk 29 (November 1976), p. 55, calls it "Hausbackenen Protestanten".

Betty Tyler. "Greenwich Influece on Motherwell Shows in Definitive Book on His Art." Bridgeport Post (August 14, 1977), p. F–7.

H. H. Arnason. Robert Motherwell. New York, 1977, pp. 25, 30, 37, 58, 88, colorpl. 70, listed as on extended loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

France Huser. "Bleu d'outre–mer." Le nouvel observateur no. 661 (July 11–17, 1977), p. 55, calls it "Le simple protestant".

John Murray Cuddihy. No Offense: Civil Religion and Protestant Taste. New York, 1978, p. 192, ill. (color, cover), calls it "Homely Protestant".

Edward B. Henning. The Spirit of Surrealism. Exh. cat., Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, 1979, p. 152, no. 92, ill., colorpl. 32.

Dore Ashton. "Robert Motherwell." Flash Art no. 100 (November 1980), p. 8.

Janet Tracy Anderson. "Eluding the A Priori: A Hermeneutic of Process Based Upon Robert Motherwell's Superordinant Concepts on the Making of Art, a Thesis in Art Education." PhD diss., Pennsylvania State University, 1981, pp. 100, 132, 158, 217, 222.

H. H. Arnason. Robert Motherwell. rev. 2nd ed. (1st ed. 1977). New York, 1982, pp. 13, 25, 30, 37, 58, 92, 111, colorpl. 122.

Evan R. Firestone. "James Joyce and the First Generation New York School." Arts Magazine 56 (June 1982), p. 116.

William C. Seitz. Abstract Expressionist Painting in America. Cambridge, Mass., 1983, p. 23, fig. 175.

Dore Ashton in Robert Motherwell. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery. New York, [1983], p. 34, ill. p. 32 (color).

Robert Motherwell in Robert Motherwell. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery. New York, [1983], p. 13.

Emile de Antonio and Mitch Tuchman. Painters Painting: A Candid History of the Modern Art Scene, 1940–1970. New York, 1984, p. 63.

Lynne Cooke. "New York: Contemporary American Exhibitions." Burlington Magazine 127 (March 1985), p. 193.

Harry F. Gaugh. "Elegy for an Exhibition." Art News 85 (March 1985), p. 73.

Roger Kimball. "The Motherwell Restrospective." New Criterion (March 1985), pp. 32, 40.

Robert S. Mattison. "A Voyage: Robert Motherwell's Earliest Works." Arts Magazine 59 (February 1985), p. 92.

Clement Greenberg. The Collected Essays and Criticism. Vol. 2, Arrogant Purpose: 1945–1949. Chicago and London, 1986, p. 242.

Lisa M. Messinger in Recent Acquisitions: A Selection, 1986–1987. New York, 1987, p. 70, ill.

Robert Saltonstall Mattison. Robert Motherwell: The Formative Years. Ann Arbor, 1987, pp. 146–47, 159, 165–66, 175, 181–84, 196, 219, fig. 75, suggests that "Emperor of China" (1947, private collection) is a pendant of this painting.

Robert S. Mattison. "Robert Motherwell's First Collages: 'All My Life I Have Been Obsessed with Death'." Studies in Iconography. Ed. Anne Farnsworth Gully and Ariel Carroll Presta. Vol. 12, Phoenix, 1988, p. 176.

Anna C. Chave. Mark Rothko: Subjects in Abstraction. New Haven, 1989, p. 209 n. 88, calls it "Homely Protestant".

Robert Motherwell. "An Artist's Odyssey." Art & Antiques 6 (February 1989), p. 74.

Robert Enright. "The Monumental Diarist: An Interview with Robert Motherwell." Border Crossings 8 (November 1989), ill. p. 10 (color).

Marcelin Pleynet. Robert Motherwell. Paris, 1989, pp. 30–32, 77, ill. p. 78 (color).

Stephen Polcari. Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience. Cambridge, 1991, pp. 306, 308, fig. 240, compares this painting to stick figures in Picasso's, Brancusi's, and Brassai's work.

Jack Flam. Motherwell. New York, 1991, pp. 10, 20, fig. 18 (color).

Marcelin Pleynet. "Art and Literature: Robert Motherwell's 'Riverrun'." Interpreting Contemporary Art. Ed. Stephen Bann and William Allen. New York, 1991, pp. 15, 21, 23, ill. p. 16, dates it 1947–48.

The Collected Writings of Robert Motherwell. Ed. Stephanie Terenzio. New York, 1992, p. 51.

Thomas McEvilley. The Exile's Return: Toward a Redefintion of Painting for the Post–Modern Era. Cambridge, 1993, pp. 26, 49, dates it 1947–48.

Daniel Mark Belgrad. "The Social Meanings of Spontaneity in American Arts and Literature, 1940–1960." PhD diss., Yale University, 1994, pp. 137–38.

James E. B. Breslin. "Robert Motherwell: From WASPism to Modernism." Threepenny Review no. 61 (Spring 1995), pp. 24–25.

Caroline A. Jones. Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist. Chicago, 1996, pp. 283–84.

Mary Ann Caws. Robert Motherwell: What Art Holds. New York, 1996, p. 80, ill. p. 82.

Thomas McEvilley. "Seeking the Primal Through Paint: The Monochrome Icon." Capacity: History, the World, and the Self in Contemporary Art and Criticism. Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 59, 79, dates it 1947–48.

Ann Eden Gibson. Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics. New Haven, 1997, pp. 14–15, 29, 55, ill. p. 13 (color).

Teresa del Conde. Tres Maestros: Reflexiones sobre Bacon, Motherwell y Tamayo. 1997, p. 97.

Marcelin Pleynet. "Art et Littérature: Riverrun." La Nouvelle Revue Française nos. 546–47 (July–August 1998), pp. 90, 96, 98.

Jean-Luc Chalumeau. Motherwell: 1915–1991. Paris, 1998, pp. 14, 62, colorpl. 6.

David Cateforis. "Robert Motherwell's 'Figure Before Blackness'." Spencer Museum of Art Register 7 (July 1, 2000–June 30, 2001), pp. 8, 10, fig. 5.

Mary Ann Caws. Robert Motherwell: With Pen and Brush. 2003, pp. 96, 143, 157, 176, fig. 66.

The Writings of Robert Motherwell. Ed. Dore Ashton with Joan Banach. Berkeley, 2007, ill. p. 65.

Jack Flam, Katy Rogers, and Tim Clifford. Robert Motherwell Paintings and Collages: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941–1991. Vol. 2, Paintings on Canvas and Panel. New Haven, 2012, pp. 50–51, no. P85, ill. (color).

Jack Flam. Robert Motherwell Paintings and Collages: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941–1991. Ed. Jack Flam, Katy Rogers, and Tim Clifford. Vol. 1, Essays and References. New Haven, 2012, pp. 4, 9, 12, 14, 59–60, 124, 142, 173 n. 7, fig. 42 (color), ill. p. 52 (color, detail), relates that the artist placed this picture in a category of his work that he described as "working in close tonality over an essentially single color field"; describes how the artist chose the title by free association from Joyce's "Finnegan's Wake" (1939); states that this painting once hung near the entrance of the artist's home.

Phyllis Tuchman in Phyllis Tuchman. Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Exh. cat., Guild Hall. East Hampton, 2014, pp. 29–30, 40 n. 82, no. 5, fig. 8 (color) and ill. p. 63 (color).

Catherine Craft in Phyllis Tuchman. Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Exh. cat., Guild Hall. East Hampton, 2014, p. 49.

Tim Clifford in Phyllis Tuchman. Robert Motherwell: The East Hampton Years, 1944-1952. Exh. cat., Guild Hall. East Hampton, 2014, p. 115, fig. 22 (installation photo, Samuel M. Kootz Gallery, 1952).



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