Seeking Transcendence
Robert Motherwell and the New York School Storming the Citadel, 1991.









At Five in the Afternoon

Robert Motherwell, At Five in the Afternoon,1949.
Casein and graphite on paperboard 15 X 20 inches.










Federico Garcia Lorca

Garcia Lorca poem, "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias"
Lorca wrote the poem to lament the death of his bullfighter friend
Three symbolic colrs in the poem:
Red = blood
White = blinding light of the sun
Black = death










Elegy to the Spanish Republic series
Spanish Civil War 1936 - 1939
More than 700,000 people killed in combat
To Motherwell, the Spanish Civil War served as metaphor for injustice.

  • The U.S. government used it as a symbol of the fight between democracy and fascism.
Modern Art Was CIA Weapon
  • Motherwell conceived the series as commemorations of human suffering
  • Intended as symbols for the cycle of life and death
elegy = lament or funeral song
Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic,
No. 34
, 1953-1954.











Sam Francis, Big Red, 1953.

Young Builders of Communism, c. 1940.


The New American Painting exhibition











Elegy 110

Allusions to the Spanish struggle
in Motherwell's series:
  • Reference to bullfighting in the abstract image of a bull's genitalia (probably inspired by Guernica)
  • Rounded forms pressed against weighty dark bars symbolizes the struggle for democracy & freedom
  • Dramatic sense of tension throughout the compositons
Robert Motherwell, Elegy to the Spanish Republic 110, 1971.












Onement I

Barnett Newman, Onement I, 1948.











Suggestions in Onement

Onement I

Oneness with another being
  • When you atone you connect and communicate
  • Jews atone during Yom Kippur
  • Cabbalists regard Yom Kippur as a time to reflect on the mystery of creation
  • The separation of light and darkness
  • The beginning of life
Red-brown field
  • Suggests the earth
  • Hebrew word for earth = adamah
  • In Genesis, Adam was made from earth
Barnett Newman, Onement I, 1948.











Vir Heroicus Sublimis

Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis (Man, Heroic and Sublime), 1950 - 1951. approx. 8' X 18'.























Barnett Newman, Vir Heroicus Sublimis (Man, Heroic and Sublime), 1950 - 51. approx. 8' X 18'











Vir Heroicus Sublimis

Viewers absorbing Vir Heroicus Sublimis









Mark Rothko, Untitled, 1956.











Green and Tangerine

Mark Rothko, Green and Tangerine on Red, 1956.


A Rothko painting "is not a picture of an experience, it is an experience." - Rothko admirer























Mark Rothko

Pink Yellow

Mark Rothko, 1961
Mark Rothko, Red, Orange, Tan, and  Purple, 1949.











Sublime = lofty, grand or exalted in thought, expression or manner; of outstanding spiritual, intellectual or moral worth; tending to inspire awe usually because of elevated quality
Epiphany = an appearance or manifestation of a divine being; a sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something; an intuitive grasp of reality through something usually simple and striking

Monk by the Sea

"Instead of making cathedrals out of Christ , man or life, we are making them out of ourselves, out of our own feelings." - Barnett Newman
Caspar David Friedrich, Monk by the Sea, 1808 - 1809.












Mark Rothko, Seagram Murals, 1958 - 1960.