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Robert Motherwell

/Works and biography

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Personage (Autoportrait), December 9, 1943
Paper collage, gouache, and ink on board, 103.8 x 65.9 cm
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice 76.2553 PG 155
© Robert Motherwell, by SIAE 2008


In 1943 Robert Motherwell and Jackson Pollock experimented with collage in response to Peggy Guggenheim’s initial preparations for a show of works in the medium at her gallery- museum Art of This Century, in New York. The exhibition included examples by the foremost European practitioners, such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Kurt Schwitters. Though Pollock’s interest in the technique soon waned, Motherwell’s concern with it endured. Personage (Autoportrait) is one of several important examples he produced in 1943–44. Motherwell acknowledged that the work might, in a sense, evoke an embodiment of self-image. Although a blocky, somewhat mournful figure can be imagined, Personage (Autoportrait) is more readily perceived as a nonreferential coloristic and spatial construction. A jagged horizontal-vertical mesh organizes the composition. The alignment of the edges of the paper structures the work architectonically and serves as a support for vigorously applied paint.

credits: Hangar Design Group