This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of paintings and collages being prepared by the Dedalus Foundation.
Inspired by the summer that he spent in Italy, in 1960, Summertime in Italy #15, 1963-64, is part of a larger series by the same title which the artist explored in both painting and prints. The peaked triangular form rising from the horizon on the canvas is an abstract reference to landscape, specifically suggestive of an Apennine mountain with the blue in the foreground as the ocean which borders the mountain range in the peninsula of Italy.
Painted during a highly inspired and prolific time in the artist's life, the black and white dominant contrast, most well-known in Motherwell's Elegy series which he began in the 1950s and was still working on at the same time, is also the basis of the Summertime in Italy series and mirrors the austerity and drama of the Elegy paintings. The addition of blue and green to the palette of Summertime in Italy #15, softens the angular forms and cropped, geometric composition, giving to the otherwise severe and urgent gestures.
Reflecting Motherwell's Abstract Expressionist roots, Summertime in Italy #15, embodies the artist's physical presence in his work more than the landscape itself. The silhouetted triangle evokes foremost an immediate, sweeping gesture that is further energized by the layering of brown and green contours on either side of the form. Urgent yet refined, importance of the act and process of painting remain evident even in light of the nature-referencing title that has more personal associations than overt physical references. As stated by Jack Flam, "In Motherwell's work, this sense of the physical act is always of great importance and it cannot be detached from the meaning of the image itself...In the now quick, now light, now violent, now probing movement of the brush or pen or pencil, a gesture makes feeling intelligible" (J. Flam, Motherwell, New York, 1991, p. 8).