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"Mexican Sketchbook," 1941. Ink on paper, 9 x 11½ in. (22.9 x 29.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Gift of the artist
Summer 1941

Motherwell drops out of Columbia University to pursue painting full-time, despite his family's objections. Around June 7, he sails for Mexico with Matta, Anne Matta, and Barbara Reis, the daughter of the prominent New York collectors Bernard and Rebecca Reis.

Aboard the ship Motherwell meets his future wife, Maria Emilia Ferreira y Moyers, an aspiring actress and writer who is traveling to Mexico to obtain a divorce and visit relatives in Mexico City. Born in 1919 in Mexico and raised in Los Angeles, Ferreira has been studying acting in New York with Tamara Daykarhanova and Robert Lewis, one of the founders of the Group Theater.

Upon arrival in Mexico, the group spends a week in Mexico City where Motherwell begins La Belle Mexicaine (Maria) (P1), his first mature oil painting. On June 19 Motherwell travels with the group and Ferreira to Taxco, where they will spend the summer. In the months that follow, Motherwell creates the ink drawings in the Mexican Sketchbook (Collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York) his first sustained experiment in automatism.