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Monster (for Charles Ives)

1959 Robert Motherwell Born: Aberdeen, Washington 1915 Died: Provincetown, Massachusetts 1991 oil on canvas 78 1/4 x 118 1/4 in. (198.8 x 300.4 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc. 1969.47.67 Not currently on view


Gallery Label

Motherwell painted this work while listening to the music of Charles Ives, an American composer whose unexpected chords and musical phrases suggest images and impressions that we almost, but can’t quite, identify. Motherwell's monsters—the dark, threatening masses that loom in his paintings—express his anxieties as an artist and as a witness to a violent century. He had written a few years before painting this work that poets and composers, like artists, were "ill at ease in the universe" and their efforts were meant to bridge the gulf "between one's lonely self and the world." Motherwell dedicated the painting to Ives because he felt the composer understood the difficulty of making modern art that moves its audience without explaining why.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006

Keywords

Abstract

Fantasy - monster

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas

About Robert Motherwell

Born: Aberdeen, Washington 1915 Died: Provincetown, Massachusetts 1991

More works in the collection by
Robert Motherwell