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Robert Motherwell, passport photo, Boston, May 1938.
Autumn 1937-Spring 1938

Motherwell enters Harvard University's Department of Philosophy, where he studies with Arthur O. Lovejoy and with David W. Prall, a charismatic young professor whose major works include Aesthetic Judgment (1929) and Aesthetic Analysis (1936). Motherwell takes a seminar with Prall on Spinoza's Ethics and an independent study on Aesthetics. Prall, a passionate teacher and active member of the Teacher's Union, becomes Motherwell's mentor. Lovejoy's two-semester seminar, The History of Ideas: The Concept of Romanticism, leads Motherwell to The Journal Of Eugène Delacroix as the topic for his thesis.

Motherwell also attends a series of six lectures by Alfred North Whitehead at Wellesley College. Whitehead's talks, which are published a year later as Modes of Thought, make a profound impression on Motherwell who will return to Whitehead's ideas throughout his career. Motherwell will later credit Whitehead for preparing the way for his seemingly intuitive grasp of abstraction. In the spring, Lovejoy and Prall encourage him to spend a year in France to complete his thesis on Delacroix.