Robert Motherwell (1915-1994) studied art and philosophy in Los Angeles and San Francisco before entering Harvard University. Interspersing trips to Europe (1932 and 1938-1940) with his studies, he combined graduate studies in philosophy at Harvard with courses in art history at Columbia University in New York. There Motherwell met a number of European Surrealists in exile; he adopted many of their ideas, particularly the notion of automatic writing as a means of tapping into the subconscious. Motherwell also experimented early and often with collage, becoming a widely acknowledged master in this modernist medium.
In the 1950s he began what became his most extensive painting series, Elegies to the Spanish Republic. Motherwell first exhibited at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery (1944). Along with Barnett Newman, Motherwell is the only other abstract expressionist to explore printmaking seriously. After numerous invitations from Tatyana Grosman, he first visited ULAE in 1961 because of the encouragement of his wife, Helen Frankenthaler, who was printing there. Motherwell was a prolific printmaker; creating seventeen editions at ULAE between 1961-1971. While these represent only a fraction of his output as a printer, they reveal the full range of his interests – from collage to gestural color to collaborations between artists and poets.