Wall Painting No. IV, 1954

Robert Motherwell graduated from Stanford in 1937, having studied psychology, philosophy, and literature. Motherwell started a graduate degree in art history at Columbia University under the guidance of renowned art historian Meyer Schapiro. In New York, Motherwell strayed from history and became a practicing artist. He would go on to found the abstract expressionism movement with contemporaries like Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko. Wall Painting IV shows Motherwell’s investment in shape and emotion. The crescent of black paint—a recurring shape in Motherwell’s oeuvre—tears through the center of the canvas. The swaths of black become the players in Motherwell’s drama, disturbing the regular order of the alternating brown and white stripes.