description of Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57 by Robert Motherwell

This seven-foot-tall, nine-foot-wide oil and charcoal painting features imprecise black shapes on a white background. At the center of the canvas is a thick vertical rectangle that is crossed at the top by a thinner, horizontal rectangle, creating a large T. To our left of the T’s trunk is one vertical oval, and to the right are two slightly smaller ovals. Two more vertical rectangles bookend the piece on the left and right edges of the canvas. The rectangles and arms of the T create three-sided pens that fence in the ovals. Thin charcoal lines close the pens’ openings at the bottom of the canvas. All of the shapes have been rendered with rough, imperfect edges, but their black coloring is stark and absolute. At the top of the canvas, a curving white line reaches into the black trunk of the T like an arm or dangling phallus. Arching above the two ovals on our right are thin smudges of green-gray paint, the most colorful elements on the canvas.

Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57, 1957-1961
Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57, 1957-1961; oil and charcoal on canvas, 84 in. x 109 1/8 in. (213.36 cm x 277.18 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis and gift of Gardiner Hempel; © Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by VAGA, New York
Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57, 1957-1961

Artwork Info

Artwork title
Elegy to the Spanish Republic, No. 57
Artist name
Robert Motherwell
Date created
1957-1961
Classification
painting
Medium
oil and charcoal on canvas
Dimensions
84 in. x 109 1/8 in. (213.36 cm x 277.18 cm)
Date acquired
1994
Credit
Collection SFMOMA
Purchase through a gift of Phyllis C. Wattis and gift of Gardiner Hempel
Copyright
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by VAGA, New York
Permanent URL
https://www.sfmoma.org/artwork/94.383
Artwork status
On view on floor 2 as part of Open Ended: Painting and Sculpture Since 1900

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