Robert Motherwell | Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70 | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2024)

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Robert Motherwell American

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Beginning about 1948, Motherwell began making oil sketches and paintings that evolved into a series of more than one hundred variations on a theme he called Elegies to the Spanish Republic. Initially inspired by the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) and contemporary poetry, his Elegies constitute an extended abstract meditation on life and death. Throughout the series, horizontal white canvases are divided rhythmically by two or three freely drawn vertical bars and punctuated at various intervals by ovoid forms. The paintings are most often composed entirely of black and white—the colors of mourning and radiance, death and life. Motherwell remarked on the entanglement of those forces as a metaphor for his understanding of the experience of being alive.

Robert Motherwell | Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70 | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (3)

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Robert Motherwell | Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70 | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (4)

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Artwork Details

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Title: Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70

Artist: Robert Motherwell (American, Aberdeen, Washington 1915–1991 Provincetown, Massachusetts)

Date: 1961

Medium: Oil on canvas

Dimensions: 69 x 114 in. (175.3 x 289.6 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Anonymous Gift, 1965

Accession Number: 65.247

Rights and Reproduction: © 2024 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Learn more about this artwork

Timeline of Art History


Abstract Expressionism


The United States and Canada, 1900 A.D.-present

Museum Publications

Twentieth-Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Vol. 2, Painting, 1945–1985

Modern and Contemporary Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Art = Discovering Infinite Connections in Art History

"The Abstract Expressionists"

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Robert Motherwell | Elegy to the Spanish Republic No. 70 | The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2024)


What is the meaning of the elegy to the Spanish Republic? ›

From Motherwell's retrospective view, the war became a metaphor for all injustice. He conceived of his Elegies to the Spanish Republic as majestic commemorations of human suffering and as abstract, poetic symbols for the inexorable cycle of life and death.

What does the prevalence of black and white in Robert Motherwell's elegy to the Spanish Republic XXXIV suggest? ›

The prevalence of black and white in Motherwell's Elegy to the Spanish Republic XXXIV suggests: the struggle between life and death.

Which American artist was a founder of the British Royal Academy? ›

Benjamin West PRA (1738 - 1820) A Founder member of the Royal Academy who became its second president, Benjamin West was an American artist who arrived in London aged 25 and decided to stay. Born in Pennsylvania in 1738, Benjamin West developed an interest in art at a young age.

What is the main message of elegy? ›

An elegy is a poem, and it has a particular kind of emotion driving it. That emotion is lament, meaning to feel and express sorrow, and to mourn for something — and, yes, elegies are very often about someone who has died, but it might also be something that has died, say, a feeling, or a relationship.

What is the purpose of the elegy poem? ›

The elegy is a form of poetry in which the poet or speaker expresses grief, sadness, or loss. The elegy began as an ancient Greek metrical form and is traditionally written in response to the death of a person or group.

What is the significance of black and white paintings? ›

The earliest surviving works of Western art made in grisaille were created in the Middle Ages for devotional purposes, to eliminate distractions, and focus the mind. As colour pervades daily life, black and white can signal a shift to an otherworldly or spiritual context.

Who wrote the black legend of Spanish involvement in the New World partially inspired by a short account of the destruction of the Indies? ›

The Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies was the first and the most bitter protest against the excesses of European colonization in the Americas, and its author, Bartolomé de Las Casas, 'Defender and Apostle to the Indians', the most controversial figure in the long and troubled history of Spain's American ...

Was an art movement that celebrated violence, speed, energy, motion, force, and change? ›

Futurism (Italian: Futurismo, Italian: [futuˈrizmo]) was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy, and to a lesser extent in other countries, in the early 20th century. It emphasized dynamism, speed, technology, youth, violence, and objects such as the car, the airplane, and the industrial city.

Which artist was knighted by the Queen? ›

Musicians with knighthood and damehood
  • The Beatles: Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were both knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. ...
  • Elton John: The British pop icon was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II on April 24, 1998.
  • Mick Jagger: Rolling Stone's frontman Mick Jagger became Sir Mick on Dec.
Mar 15, 2023

Who was the first painter to be knighted? ›

In June 1718 George I made Thornhill History Painter-in-ordinary, and in March 1720 Sergeant-Painter, succeeding his former master Highmore in the latter role. On 2 May 1720, 300 years ago, Thornhill was knighted by King George I – the first British artist to be knighted for his work.

Who was the US painter born in England 1783? ›

Thomas Sully (born June 19, 1783, Horncastle, Lincolnshire, Eng. —died Nov. 5, 1872, Philadelphia) was one of the finest U.S. portrait painters of the 19th century.

What is the elegy written about? ›

An elegy is a sad poem, usually written to praise and express sorrow for someone who is dead. Although a speech at a funeral is a eulogy, you might later compose an elegy to someone you have loved and lost to the grave. The purpose of this kind of poem is to express feelings rather than tell a story.

What is the word meaning of elegy? ›

Elegy (which may be traced to the Greek word elegos, “song of mourning”) commonly refers to a song or poem lamenting one who is dead; the word may also refer somewhat figuratively to a nostalgic poem, or to a kind of musical composition.

What is the main idea of the poem Elegy Written in a Country? ›

Thomas Gray takes on this challenge as he celebrates the lives of ordinary people in his 1751 “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.” The poem examines themes of life and death, status, and the natural world as the speaker contemplates the life and death of the poor and rich while also reflecting on his own mortality.

What is the meaning of the Roman elegy? ›

Written in a prescribed meter, the Roman elegy Is usually about a male speaker's tempestuous love for an unattainable and unfaithful woman. She is a woman of dubious social standing, to whom he figuratively enslaves himself.

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