• Post-War & Contemporary Art Mo auction at Christies

    Sale 2598

    Post-War & Contemporary Art Morning Session

    15 November 2012, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 315

    Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)

    The Mexican Window

    Price Realised  

    Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)
    The Mexican Window
    signed and dated 'Motherwell 74' (upper left); signed again, titled and dated again '"THE MEXICAN WINDOW" R. Motherwell 24 Jan 74' (on the reverse)
    oil and charcoal on canvas
    76½ x 96¼ in. (194.3 x 244.4 cm.)
    Painted in 1974.


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    Mexican Window, 1974 is an impressive variation of the Open series, where the signature delineation of open rectangular shape is indicated upon a unified field of color. However, the present work is a more complex image that bears Motherwell's career-long preoccupations with disparate subjects such as his earlier paintings and collages from the 1940s, Latin American and Mexican culture, the motif of the wall as support and canvas, and Henri Matisse. "From his early days he had always conceived of a painting as a kind of wall, and the pictures he called Wall Paintings were a testament to how important he believed this aspect of this work to be. Window-like motifs had also appeared in his pictures almost from beginning, sometimes quite overtly as in the Spanish Prison (Window) and Spanish Picture with Windwo, which actually does contain a variation of the Open motif of the rectangular U shape at the upper left. In fact, Spanish Picture with Window contains in nascent form some of the key pictorial ideas that appear in the Open paintings: their rectilinearity, their use of large, planar areas of color, their spatial ambiguity, and their use of a window form that refers back to the picture plane rather than offering us a view into an illusion of deep space" (J. Flam et al., Robert Mothewell: A Catalogue Raisonne, 1941-1991, Paintings and Collages, Volume One, pp. 130 & 132.) Another notable aspect of the painting is how Matisse's more reductive canvases are referenced, such as the French master's French Window at Collioure, 1914 and View of Notre Dame, 1914, where the division of space at once acknowledges some kind of structure, and at the same time, keeping the picture plane flatly intact.

    The present work has a modulated surface that is quite active and gestural, this surface works in concert with the boldly drawn window-like fragment that suggests a faade of a building. The signature ochre that is an shorthand for Motherwell for the Mediterranean/Latin locale suggests a world that is at once exotic and familiar. However, there is such a high degree of energy and rhythm of the brushwork, that there appears to be hints of yellows and golds. Mexican Window successfully merges the compelling themes of Motherwell's painting practice and exhibits a powerful synthesis that is remarkably harmonious and monumental.


    Provenance

    Knoedler & Co., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1974


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MILDRED S. AND HERBERT C. LEE


    Literature

    J. Flam, Motherwell, New York, 1991, p. 128, no. 99 (illustrated in color).
    H. Arnason, Robert Motherwell, New York, 1982, pp. 90-91, no. 98 (illustrated in color).
    J. Flam, K. Rogers and T. Clifford, Robert Motherwell Paintings and Collages: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1941-1991, Volume Two: Paintings on canvas and panel, New Haven and London, 2012, p. 378, no. P764 (illustrated in color).


    Exhibited

    New York, Knoedler & Company, Robert Motherwell, 1974, cat. no. 9.