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New Acquisitions: Robert Motherwell’s A la Pintura and In Plato’s Cave

February 19–May 21, 2000

Recently acquired and important works by Robert Motherwell (1915–91), one of the foremost Abstract Expressionist painters in the United States, will be exhibited for the first time in this installation, featuring the print portfolio A la Pintura (1968–1972) and the painting In Plato’s Cave (1973). In 1998, the museum acquired the painting and portfolio together with a 1958–60 painting from Motherwell’s famous series, Elegy to the Spanish Republic (1958–1960), from the Dedalus Foundation in New York. Established by Motherwell, the Dedalus Foundation distributes the artist’s work and funds scholarly programs in modern art.

A la Pintura (1968–72) takes its name from a lyrical cycle of poems on painting and great painters of the past by the Spanish poet, Rafael Alberti (1902–1999). Motherwell painted his somber and eloquent In Plato’s Cave in 1973. The painting shares with A la Pintura the compositional qualities of Motherwell’s so-called Open Series, which were inspired by the “chance” juxtaposition of two differently sized canvases; leaning against a larger canvas, the smaller one suggested a kind of “door” or “window.” The painting’s title derives from Plato’s Republic, in which the ancient Greek philosopher likens ignorance and illusion to the experience of cave dwellers who discern events taking place outside their subterranean home only from the shadows cast within.

Main Building


Madeleine Viljoen, Curatorial Intern in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs

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