Robert Motherwell (1915-1991).
There is no more conspicuous studio in town than Sea Barn, at 631 Commercial Street, in the East End. Its builder, Robert Motherwell, was a pillar of Abstract Expressionism, the last artist of international stature to live and work in town. Even his grave stands out: a bronze plaque bearing his name as a signature, mounted on an irregular boulder. Motherwell’s importance was underscored by a one-man show at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum in 2012, on the 70th anniversary of his arrival on the Cape (to visit his art dealer, Peggy Guggenheim, and her husband, Max Ernst). “Mr. Motherwell’s work ranged from a series of brooding abstract paintings known as Elegies to the Spanish Republic — whose obsessive theme roughly took the form of oval shapes confined by vertical bars — to elegantly playful collages contrived from scraps of music, stamps, tobacco labels and other ephemera,” Grace Glueck wrote in The New York Times upon his death. “Though always abstract and painterly, Mr. Motherwell’s work expressed his literary and philosophical concerns and his deep involvement with the culture of Mediterranean Europe. A large man who moved and talked slowly, the artist never lost his Abstract Expressionist view of painting as a struggle, ‘a state of anxiety’ as he once put it, ‘that is obliquely recorded in the inner tensions of the finished canvas.’ … His stature as a painter, collagist and printmaker made his work a must in major collections throughout the world.” As for an epitaph, he had said to Glueck: “I’ve spent my life self-employed, done what I wanted to do, had a couple of beautiful daughters — how many people can say that?”
¶ Last updated on 15 July 2017.
Provincetown’s Historic Cemeteries and Memorials, Key A-68, Page 18.