One of the greatest American Abstract Expressionist painters —along with Rothko, Pollock and de Kooning, Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) abandoned a promising academic career to devote himself to painting. After leaving his doctoral studies in philosophy at Harvard, Motherwell enrolled at Columbia University, began to study art, and embarked on a trip to Mexico. There he met artist Roberto Matta, who introduced him to automatism and with whom he also developed a strong friendship. Motherwell is best known for his famous ‘Elegies to the Spanish Republic’ series, in which black shapes, predominantly oval and linear, contrast with a white or ochre background. Motherwell made these works as a political commentary of public lament against the violence of the Spanish Civil War.
This untitled work, produced during the same period that Motherwell painted the ‘Elegies,’ corresponds to another body of work called ‘Beside the Sea,’ carried out during the author's summers spent in Provincetown, Massachusetts. The painting evokes the waves breaking vigorously against a sea wall, an effect achieved by the free movement of the brush generating splashes on the canvas.