Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70

Artist:
Robert Motherwell (American, Aberdeen, Washington 1915–1991 Provincetown, Massachusetts)
Date:
1961
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
69 x 114 in. (175.3 x 289.6 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Anonymous Gift, 1965
Accession Number:
65.247
Rights and Reproduction:
Art © Dedalus Foundation /Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 920
Beginning in about 1948, Robert Motherwell made works that would evolve into an ongoing series of over one hundred painted variations on a theme that he called Elegies to the Spanish Republic. Initially inspired by the Spanish Civil War as well as by the poetry of Harold Rosenberg and Federico García Lorca, the real subject of Motherwell's Elegies is not any particular literary source or political event but rather a general meditation on life and death. Although specific paintings may express an individual spirit, or "tone voice," they remain a family group, related to one another by subject and by similarities in composition and format. In all of these paintings, the horizontal white canvas is rhythmically divided by two or three freely drawn vertical bars and punctuated at various intervals by ovoid forms, creating a structure seemingly heraldic in nature. The paintings are almost always composed entirely of black and white—the colors of mourning and radiance, of death and life. Motherwell has remarked on the entanglement of these forces in these works, as a metaphor for his understanding of the experience of living.


Motherwell's Elegies of the 1960s reflect his Abstract Expressionist affiliations in the gestural, painterly treatment of form, the rapid execution, and the integration of accidental effects, such as spattered paint. Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70 was executed on the floor rather than on an easel, in the manner of Jackson Pollock's earlier "poured" or "drip" paintings.

Inscription: Signed and dated (verso, on horizontal stretcher): Motherwell 1961
private collection, New York (1961–65; their gift to MMA)

New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "10 American Painters," May 7–June 2, 1962, no. 8 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70").

New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "New Paintings and Collages by Robert Motherwell," December 4–29, 1962, no. 2 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70") (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70").

New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "11 Abstract Expressionist Painters," October 7–November 2, 1963, no.13 (as "Elegy To The Spanish Republic #70," lent by the artist).

New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Guggenheim International Award, 1964," January 16–March 29, 1964, no. 78 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70," lent by the artist, courtesy Marlborough, New York).

Honolulu Academy of Arts. "Guggenheim International Award, 1964," May 14–July 5, 1964, no. 78.

Berlin. Akademie der Künste. "Guggenheim International Award, 1964," August 21–September 15, 1964, no. 78.

Ottawa. National Gallery of Canada. "Guggenheim International Award, 1964," October 5–November 9, 1964, no. 78.

Sarasota. John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. "Guggenheim International Award, 1964," January 16–March 14, 1965, no. 78.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires. "Guggenheim International Award, 1964," April 20–May 20, 1965, no. 78.

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Robert Motherwell," September 29–November 29, 1965, no. 59 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic LXX," lent by the artist, courtesy of Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New York).

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Robert Motherwell," January 7–February 27, 1966, no. 53 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic LXX, lent by the artist, courtesy of the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, N.Y.).

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. 53 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republik LXX," lent by the artist, courtesy of the Marlborough-Gerson-Gallery, New York).

Turin. Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna. "Robert Motherwell," September 27–October 30, 1966, no. 53 (as "Elegia per la Repubblica Spagnola, LXX," lent by the artist, courtesy the Marlborough-Gerson Gallery, New-York).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970," October 18, 1969–February 1, 1970, no. 256.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums," November 30, 1970–January 10, 1971, no. 98.

Saint Louis, Mo. City Art Museum. "Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums," January 28–March 7, 1971, no. 98.

Seattle Art Museum. "Great American Paintings from the Boston and Metropolitan Museums," March 25–May 9, 1971, no. 98.

Albany. New York State Museum. "New York: The State of the Art," October 8–November 27, 1977 (checklist no. 538).

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist," June 1, 1978–January 14, 1979, no. 6 (as "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70").

New York. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. "Robert Motherwell," December 7, 1984–February 3, 1985.

[I.]rving [H.] [S.]andler. "Reviews and Previews." Art News 61 (Summer 1962), p. 16, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70".

"The Deepest Identity." Newsweek (December 10, 1962), p. 94.

Irving Hershel Sandler. "New York Letter." Quadrum 14 (1963), p. 116.

Sidney Tillim. "Month in Review." Arts Magazine 37 (January 1963), p. 40, calls it "Elegy No. 70".

Michael Fried. "New York Letter." Art International 7 (January 25, 1963), p. 69, ill., calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70" in the caption and "Elegy No. 70" in the text.

Irving Sandler. "In the Art Galleries." New York Post Magazine (February 2, 1964), p. 14, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70".

Lawrence Alloway. Guggenheim International Award, 1964. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 1964, pp. 13, 31, no. 78, ill. 60.

H. H. Arnason. "Robert Motherwell: The Years 1948 to 1965." Art International 10 (April 20, 1966), p. 30.

Luigi Mallé. Robert Motherwell. Exh. cat., Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna. Turin, 1966, pp. 12, 19, no. 53, fig. 41.

Keith Roberts. "Current and Forthcoming Exhibitions: London." Burlington Magazine 108 (May 1966), p. 274, fig. 82, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic LXX".

Mahonri Sharp Young. "The Metropolitan Museum of Art Centenary Exhibitions I. The New York School." Apollo 90 (November 1969), p. 432, fig. 11, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70".

Henry Geldzahler in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 205, ill. (upside down), calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70".

Frank O'Hara. Art Chronicles 1954–1966. New York, 1975, p. 74, fig. 3.

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. 161, 260–61, pl. 39.

H. H. Arnason. "Robert Motherwell: 1966–1976." Art International 20 (October–November 1976).

H. H. Arnason. Robert Motherwell. New York, 1977, p. 46, pls. 85 (color), 181 (installation photo Exh. New York and tour 1965-66).

E. A. Carmean, Jr. in American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Washington, D.C., 1978, pp. 97, 112–114, 16–17, 119, figs. 13, 21 (installation photo Exh. New York 1965), calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70"; identifies this work as an enlargement of a smaller Elegy painting; notes the similarities between the left side of this painting to "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 78" (1962, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven) and "The Spanish Death" (1975, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna).

Peter Morrin. "Robert Motherwell." Arts Magazine 54 (September 1979), p. 13.

E. A. Carmean, Jr. "Chronology." Robert Motherwell: Reconciliation Elegy. New York, 1980, p. 81, ill. p. 66, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 70".

H. H. Arnason. Robert Motherwell. rev. 2nd ed. (1st ed. 1977). New York, 1982, p. 46, figs. 135 (color), 189 (installation photo Exh. Cambridge 1963), 220 (installation photo Exh. New York and tour 1965-66).

Harry F. Gaugh. "Elegy for an Exhibition." Art News 85 (March 1985), p. 74.

Eugene Victor Thaw. "The Abstract Expressionists." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 44 (Winter 1986–87), p. 39, 43, fig. 32 (color), calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70".

Lisa Mintz Messinger in 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 2, Painting: 1945-1985. New York, 1986, pp. 40–41, ill. (color, overall and detail).

William S. Lieberman in 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 2, Painting: 1945–1985. New York, 1986, p. 6.

Michael Plante in Definitive Statements, American Art: 1964–66. Exh. cat., David Winton Bell Gallery, Brown University. Providence, R.I., 1986, p. 13.

Ellen C. Oppler. "Introductory Essay: Guernica–Its Creation, Artistic and Politcal Implications, and Later History." Picasso's Guernica. Ed. Ellen C. Oppler. New York, 1988, p. 115, fig. 122, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic, 70".

Robert Enright. "The Monumental Diarist: An Interview with Robert Motherwell." Border Crossings 8 (November 1989), ill. p. 14 (installation photo).

Marcelin Pleynet. Robert Motherwell. Paris, 1989, pp. 42, 56, ill. p. 93 (color).

Jack Flam. Motherwell. New York, 1991, fig. 53, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. LXX".

Marcelin Pleynet. "Art and Literature: Robert Motherwell's 'Riverrun'." Interpreting Contemporary Art. Ed. Stephen Bann and William Allen. New York, 1991, pp. 12–13, ill.

Frank O'Hara. City Poet: The Life and Times of Frank O'Hara. New York, 1993, p. 394.

Claude Cernuschi. "Not an Illustration but the Equivalent": A Cognitive Approach to Abstract Expressionism. Madison, N.J., 1997, p. 150, ill. p 112, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic".

Marcelin Pleynet. "Art et Littérature: Riverrun." La Nouvelle Revue Française nos. 546–47 (July–August 1998), p. 88, calls it "Élégie à la République espagnole no 70".

Donna M. Binkiewicz. Federalizing the Muse: United States Arts Policy and the National Endowment for the Arts, 1965–1980. Chapel Hill, 2004, p. 100, fig. 4.2, calls it "Elegy to the Spanish Republic #70".

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. 140–41, no. P220, 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. 10, 98, fig. 81 (color), notes that the artist painted out a number of the original black splash marks and added others after he first finished it; relates that the imagery of this painting influenced "Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 78" (1962, Yale University Art Gallery) and "The Spanish Death" (1975, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftlung Ludwig, Vienna).



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