Robert Motherwell: Elegy to the Spanish Republic

Robert Motherwell

Dominique Lévy, New York

November 4, 2015 - January 9, 2016

Press Release

Robert Motherwell: Elegy to the Spanish Republic (2015–16) at Dominique Lévy was the first gallery exhibition in over twenty years to offer a fresh survey of the monumental series that marked a pivotal moment in the history of modern art. Begun in 1948, Motherwell intended the Elegies as public laments, deeply political in their condemnation of the violence of the Spanish Civil War and the isolationist fascism of General Francisco Franco. The artist described them as “general metaphors of the contrast between life and death, and their interrelation.” Returning again and again to this central preoccupation of his oeuvre over decades, Motherwell would ultimately create more than 250 paintings and works on paper exploring the subject. The last work in the series, Mourning Elegy, was completed only months before he died in 1991. In their implicit references to politics, psychology, literature, and poetry, the Elegies constructed a bridge between Surrealism and the emerging movement known as Abstract Expressionism.

Elegy to the Spanish Republic celebrated the centenary of the artist’s birth and presented eighteen works spanning the years of 1954 to 1989, including small-scale studies The exhibition also featured the monumental canvas Elegy for the Spanish Republic XXXV (Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 35) (1954–58), which measures over six by eight feet. Works on view included loans from major museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Philadelphia Museum of Art; and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC.