Dr Marla Price, director of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, is pleased to announce Robert Motherwell: Pure Painting, the first exhibition in more than a quarter century to examine the work of Robert Motherwell (1915–1991), a major figure who shaped postwar art. The Modern is an especially fitting venue to mount this exhibition given its longstanding institutional commitment to the artist’s work, which dates back to the 1960s and 1970s. Today, the Modern holds more than seventy works by Motherwell in its permanent collection, in a variety of media ranging from paintings, collages, and prints. The assembly presented in this retrospective and catalogue represent a tribute to the success of his influential oeuvre, making special note of his organic revisionism.

The current exhibition is organized by guest curator Susan Davidson, and features a selection of fifty-six visually compelling works from throughout the artist’s career, including twelve paintings from the Modern’s collection. The exhibition and accompanying catalogue offer new insights into his evolution as an artist and his impact on Modernism. Although he was equally proficient as a collagist, printmaker, and draftsman, it is Motherwell’s expansive sense of painting that this retrospective explores. Beginning with the abstracted-figurative works that dominated Motherwell’s first decade of painting as he emerged in the New York art world of the early 1940s, the exhibition highlights the depth of his fifty-year career. The artist explored the nuances of abstraction in key series that defined his oeuvre, including Elegies to the Spanish RepublicJe t’aime, and Open. Motherwell invested his abstract paintings with both a profound and intellectual form of expressionism, and an expansive consciousness of historical traumas and injustices. He frequently invoked political subject matter and humanitarian themes, making his work especially relevant to audiences today. Robert Motherwell: Pure Painting offers a careful and thorough new reading of the artist’s development, revealing his fundamental desire to depict the unseen.

Robert Motherwell: Pure Painting will travel to Kunstforum Vienna and be on view from October 13, 2023 to January 14, 2024. The collaboration between institutions strengthens the Modern’s commitment to framing American art in an international context.

The Modern’s long history with Robert Motherwell began in the 1960s and 1970s, when the museum acquired twenty-seven works on paper in various media. In the 1980s, former director E. A. Carmean Jr., a scholar of Motherwell’s work, expanded the collection to include eleven additional works, including an important large painting, Stephen’s Iron Crown, 1981. In the early summer of 1991, then-curator Dr Price visited Motherwell in his studio, and selected several works that formed the exhibition Robert Motherwell: The Open Door. The exhibition opened in February 1992, shortly after the artist’s death. At the invitation of the Dedalus Foundation (founded by Motherwell in 1981), in the early 1990s Dr Price traveled to New York to select seventeen important works to add to the Modern’s collection, followed by another sixteen works in 1999. Today, the Modern has a total of seventy-two works by the artist in its collection—a selection second only to that of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


Susan Davidson is an authority in the fields of Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and Pop Art, with a specialty in the art of Robert Rauschenberg. Ms. Davidson is also an accomplished museum professional with over thirty years of experience at two distinguished institutions: The Menil Collection, Houston, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. At each museum, Ms. Davidson oversaw the stewardship of the institution’s collection, contributing to its scholarly mission and demonstrating a keen interest in issues of conservation. During her museum career, she organized important exhibitions on artists Joseph Cornell, Marcel Duchamp, John Chamberlain, Robert Motherwell, Jackson Pollock, Yves Tanguy, and numerous presentations on Robert Rauschenberg. In addition to organizing Robert Motherwell: Pure Painting, she is currently writing a monograph on Tom Wesselmann’s Great American Nudes and is the volume one editor for the Rauschenberg catalogue raisonné.


The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated, full color 208-page catalogue, with sixty-three plates and eighty-four figures. The catalogue includes four essays that highlight fresh research into Motherwell’s life and work, and a comprehensive chronology of the artist’s life. Contributing authors to the catalogue include Susan Davidson; Jennifer Cohen, curator, provenance and research at the Art Institute of Chicago; Jack Flam, president & CEO of the Dedalus Foundation; Simon Kelly, curator and head of the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Saint Louis Art Museum; and Monica McTighe, archivist at the Dedalus Foundation. The catalogue is published in English and German editions by the Modern and Hatje Cantz.  

Avatar photo

Press Release

A press release comes straight from a news source. It is not held to the same standards as a news story reported and written by a professional reporter, but it should be factual. The Fort Worth Report...