Acquired from the artist
By descent to the present owners
Property from the Estate of H. H. Arnason
The renowned art historian H. H. Arnason's History of Modern Art has been the classic account of the story of art history -- from Courbet to the present day -- for nearly four decades. Arnason didn't write his History until relatively late in life and his belief, set forth in the book's preface, has the authority and wisdom that set it apart from other studies. For Arnason was firm in his belief in the importance of visual literacy: "the thesis of this book, insofar as it has a thesis, is that in the study of art the only primary evidence is the work of art itself" (H. H. Arnason, quoted in the introduction to History of Modern Art, 5th edition, ed. Peter Kalb, Saddle River, 2003). This tenet also influenced his collection, a thoughtful group of works that was informed by Arnason's close observations of each artist's work that developed from his studies about them.
Arnason's History has become the definitive account of Modern Art, proving that Arnason's book has what Peter Kalb, editor of the book's fifth edition, describes as "marathon staying power." Early editions of the book end with the artists Agnes Martin and Brice Marden. The latest, published in 2003, having waded safely through the pluralism of the last thirty years, ends with Cai Guo-Qiang's Advertising Castle. While the contours of History of Modern Art will be argued over for years to come, as Arnason would have wanted, his channel is set.
Yet History of Modern Art was only one of the historian's many achievements. A scholar and administrator of the highest order, Arnason served as Professor and Chairman of the University of Minnesota's art department from 1947 to 1961, director of the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and, most importantly, Vice President for Art Administration at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. As Vice President for Art Administration, Arnason ran the art-side of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Among the exhibits he put on was the influential survey of American abstract painting "Abstract Expressionists and Imagists," an important show that brought to the forefront such artists as Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Joan Mitchell and Philip Guston. He was also instrumental in obtaining the Justin Thanhauser Collection for the Guggenheim, a very important collection of Impressionist and Modern art.
Arnason was also the author of more than a half-dozen books on Philip Guston, Alexander Calder, Jacques Lipchitz, Conrad Marca-Relli, the 18th century French neo-classicist Houdon, as well as an essential monograph on Robert Motherwell. While working on his book, Arnason became close friends with Motherwell, and their friendship helps to explain the dead-on insight that Arnason's book provides. In fact, Arnason researched firsthand in Motherwell's Connecticut studio, and the present work being offered from Arnason's estate, The Figure 4 on an Elegy, was hand-selected by Arnason from Motherwell's studio wall. Arnason's eye for collecting was unparalleled and was keenly informed by his close friendships to the artists he studied; it is clear that Arnason's taste in modern art was as good as his sense of its history. It begs the question of what the art historian might have done had he turned his prodigious attention from scholarship to collecting. As it is, the Arnason collection is a testimony of his extraordinary talent.
G. Nordland, "From Dirge to Jeer," Arts Magazine, February 1962, p. 50 (illustrated). H.H. Arnason, "Robert Motherwell: The Years 1948 to 1965," Art International, 20 April 1966, p. 28, pl. 27 (illustrated).
R. Hobbs, Motherwell's Concern with Death in Painting: An Investigation of His Elegies to the Spanish Republic, Including an Examination of His Philosophical and Methodological Considerations, Ph.D dissertation, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1975, pp. 255, 257, 260-261 and 263, pl. 38 (illustrated).
O. Granath, "Ogonblick av passion," Dagens Nyheter, 7 December 1976, p. 4 (illustrated).
H.H. Arnason, Robert Motherwell, New York, 1977, pp. 34, 56 and 64, pl. 125 (illustrated) and pl. 126 (illustrated in color).
American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artists, National Gallery of Art, exh. cat., 1978, pp. 31, 111-113, figs. 11 and 12, pl. 14 (illustrated).
J. Hernandez, "Robert Motherwell," Arteguia, April 1980, p. 27.
R. Mattison, "The Emperor of China: Symbols of Power and Vulnerability in the Art of Robert Motherwell during the 1940's," Art International, November-December 1982, p. 10. H.H. Arnason, Robert Motherwell, New York, 1982, pp. 142-143, pl. 162 (illustrated in color).
M. Pleynet, Les Etats-Unis De La Peinture, Paris, 1986, p. 85. M. Pleynet, Robert Motherwell, Paris, 1989, pp. 103 and 111 (illustrated in color).
J. Flam, Motherwell, London, 1991, pl. 49 (iIllustrated in color). S. Polcari, Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience, Cambridge, 1991, p. 316-317, pl. 255 (illustrated).
D. Anfam, Abstract Expressionism, New York, 2002, p. 169.
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Paintings and Collages by Robert Motherwell, April-May 1961, no. 6 (illustrated).
São Paolo, Museu de Arte Moderna, VI Bienal de São Paulo, September-December 1961.
Pasadena Art Museum, Robert Motherwell: A Retrospective Exhibition, February-March 1962, no. 46 (illustrated).
Northhampton, Smith College Museum of Art, An Exhibition of the Work of Robert Motherwell, January 1963, no. 17.
Cambridge, New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Robert Motherwell, February-March 1963.
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Robert Motherwell, September-November 1965, p. 31, no. 48 (illustrated).
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle, Robert Motherwell, September-October 1976, pp. 27, 32, 34, 47 and 103, no. 28 (illustrated).
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Robert Motherwell: Choix de Peintures et Collages 1941-1977, June-September 1977 (illustrated).
Edinburgh, The Royal Scottish Academy, Robert Motherwell: Paintings and Collages 1941-1977, October-November 1977, no. 11 (illustrated).
London, Royal Academy of Arts, Robert Motherwell: Paintings and Collages from 1941 to the Present, January-March 1978, p. 15, no. 11 (illustrated).
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist, June 1978-January 1979, p. 31, pl. 14 (illustrated).
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Robert Motherwell, October-November 1983, p. 78, no. 36 (illustrated in color).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Robert Motherwell, December 1984-February 1985.