Monday, 30 March 2009

Lost to a world in which I crave no part

Plan for the Motherwell house.

A bedroom showing the unique floor of inlaid tree sections set in cement.

Robert Motherwell inside his adapted Quonset hut residence in Georgica, 1950 by Hans Namuth.

Internal view of the east facade.

East facade of the Motherwell House, 1985.

Though East Hampton figures briefly in the life of the painter Robert Motherwell, the village played a significant role in shaping his career and his legacy. The youngest, wealthiest, and best educated of the Abstract Expressionists, Motherwell first came to the East End during the summer of 1944 to visit the older Surrealists in exile. A snapshot records the twenty-four-year-old playing chess with Max Ernst outdoors in Amagansett. In the Hamptons, Motherwell met Mark Rothko and other American artists; painted the semi-figurative works The Emperor of China and The Homely Protestant; initiated his most critically acclaimed series, Elegy to the Spanish Republic; and coedited the lone issue of the journal possiblities. Oils featuring linear, somewhat representational forms on ocher-covered surfaces eventually gave way to canvases with larger-scaled, more muscular black and white shapes. After he purchased a four-acre lot at the corner of Georgica and Jericho roads in East Hampton for about $1,200, Motherwell commissioned a house and studio from Pierre Chareau, the French architect who co-designed the Maison de Verre, a Paris landmark of the International Style. Although the architect used two prefabricated Quonset hut kits purchased for $3,000 each, costs mounted when doors, windows, balconies, and flooring had to be made by hand. Motherwell sold the house in 1952. Chareau’s only work in America, it was leveled in 1985. Motherwell later summered in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and spent his last years in Greenwich, Connecticut. In his seventies, he said about his East Hampton period, “I did my best work there.” - written by Phyllis Tuchman for The Parrish Art Museum

Further reading, Robert Motherwell's Life in the Hamptons by Mary Cummings.

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Ms. Wis./Each Little World said...

I first saw one of the big Elegies (#34) when I was a teenager. I fell in love with it and Motherwell and have never fallen out. I've only ever seen pictures of his later studio interior so your post was a wonderful discovery. Thanks for always having something intelligent and artful! Here is the painting I know and love best:

HOBAC said...

Ms. Wis - Mortherwell is one of my great loves. I was hoping to find the b/w image with the Sisters of Charity standing in front of one of the Elegies (I think it was the one at MOMA that had been originally hung upside down). Fantastic image that.