Robert Motherwell: Black
25 June to 12 September 2015

Black is death, anxiety; white is life, eclat.
(Robert Motherwell, interviewed by Jack Flam, 5 November 1982)

As we continue to celebrate Robert Motherwell's centennial, the exhibition surveys the importance of the dialogue between black and white in Motherwell's work; a bedrock to the artist's imagery. According to Jack Flam, this dialogue has not only been fundamental for the artist's pictorial structure, but also lies at the heart of his subject matter.

The exhibition comprises paintings, works on paper and limited edition prints. Included are works from Motherwell’s Elegy series which the artist worked on throughout his long career. The series functioned as his memorial to the Spanish Civil War, an event that had come to symbolize for him the human tragedies of oppression and injustice. The works are characterised by a stark black and white palette, and an interplay of ovoid and bar-like rectilinear forms.

His Elegys to Spain were meant to commemorate human suffering in an abstract form and were symbolic of the cycle of life and death. Motherwell said, "After a period of painting them, I discovered Black as one of my subjects - and with black, the contrasting white, a sense of life and death, which to me is quite Spanish. They are essentially the Spanish black of death contrasted with the dazzle of a Matisse-like sunlight."

Robert Motherwell produced a remarkable body of work that ranks among the most notable achievements in post-war American art. In addition to creating his celebrated paintings, drawings and collages, the artist was a renowned and innovative printmaker as works such as Black for Mozart, 1991, and Black with No Way Out, 1983, testify.

Robert Motherwell (born 1915, Aberdeen, Washington; died 1991, Provincetown, Massachusetts) was a major figure of the Abstract Expressionist generation and the youngest member of the ‘New York School’, a term he coined. A passionate advocate and articulate spokesman for Abstract Expressionism, he believed that ideas and emotions were best communicated through the bold forms and gestural lines of abstract art.  


Bernard Jacobson Gallery was founded in 1969 as a publisher and dealer in prints. Over the last 45 years the gallery has exhibited many great British, American and European artists including: Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Peter Lanyon, Robert Motherwell, Bruce McLean, Ben Nicholson, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, James Rosenquist, William Scott, Frank Stella, Pierre Soulages, William Tillyer, and Marc Vaux.

In 2015 Bernard Jacobson Gallery moved to prestigious new premises in Duke Street St James’s, London, opposite the Royal Academy, and just off Piccadilly. The new gallery, designed by Nick Gowing architects, occupies the ground and lower ground floor of the historic, mid-century, French Railways House.

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