The Dedalus Foundation is home to thousands of Motherwell’s professional and personal papers and photographs, including correspondence, datebooks, and interviews. The material in the archives not only allows us to reconstruct the artist’s daily activities and studio practice, but it also gives us a clear picture of Motherwell as an individual.
The images in the archives span Motherwell’s career and contain everything from his old lecture slides to photographs of works and exhibitions. Some of the most enlightening and engaging images are of Motherwell’s personal life and his travels, especially during the 1960s when he was married to the painter Helen Frankenthaler.
In the fall of 1961, Motherwell and Frankenthaler traveled to France where they each had solo exhibitions, he with Galerie Heinz Berggruen and she with Galerie Lawrence. On October 9, Frankenthaler wrote to friends, “Bob’s vernissage was last Tuesday the show is something to be proud of, great crowd and lots of familiar faces. We’re busy and feeling splendid (Even had a drink atop the Eiffel Tower today—gevalt!).”
Motherwell’s personal photographs sometimes shed light on his creative process. Photographs taken by Motherwell and Frankenthaler in Alassio, Italy illustrate how Motherwell incorporated the shapes of the landscape and the color of the beach umbrellas into Summertime in Italy No. 3, 1960.
Travel served as an inspiration for a number Motherwell’s works throughout his career, including the collage The French Line, 1960. Motherwell meant the title to be a multiple pun, which he explained in the catalogue for his 1963 Smith College exhibition: “The French advertisement is from a box of diet-crackers (the French always talk about one’s line in relation to weight); the line of the Riviera coast is visible; it is one of the most ‘French’ pictures I have ever painted (and in this sense follows the ‘French Line’ in painting); I travelled on the French line to Europe to paint it.” There is a photograph of a French Line ship in the slides from Motherwell and Frankenthaler’s trip, perhaps meant to commemorate the literal inspiration for the collage’s title.
The Dedalus Foundation archives are currently closed to the public, but research requests may still be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the Foundation’s archives, or to view digitized materials, please click here.
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