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Menil 2022 43

The youngest and most erudite of the Abstract Expressionists, Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) created a remarkable body of drawings in a wide range of techniques and styles over the course of his career. His interest in drawing stemmed from a fascination with paper as a support and from a continuous search for a personal, spontaneous language of mark-making. Inspired by Surrealism and the practice of automatic drawing, Motherwell embraced the suggestive potential of his materials, blending the accidental and the intentional in the creative gesture, whether a stroke of the pen or the brush or a tear of paper. This exhibition, the most comprehensive on the topic in decades, traces the full arc of Motherwell’s activity as a draftsman. His multifaceted practice was geared towards invention and variation, and while it evolved stylistically, it remained united by thematic continuities and his desire to draw “as fast as the mind itself.”

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Opening events: November 17-18, 2022. All photographs courtesy of the Menil Drawing Institute.
The Widow, 1976

Robert Motherwell Drawing: As Fast as the Mind Itself is curated by Edouard Kopp, John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation Chief Curator, Menil Drawing Institute.

Underwriting for this exhibition is provided by Kathy and George Britton. Additional support comes from Angela and William Cannady; Diane and Michael Cannon; Julie and John Cogan, Jr.; Cindy and David Fitch; Barbara and Michael Gamson; Linda and George Kelly; Mary Hale Lovett McLean; Carol and David Neuberger; Susanne and William E. Pritchard III; Leslie and Shannon Sasser; Mark Wawro and Melanie Gray; and the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.

Panel Discussion: Cataloguing Robert Motherwell's Drawings

Katy Rogers of the Dedalus Foundation joins Edouard Kopp, the Menil Drawing Institute’s Chief Curator, and Joseph N. Newland, the Menil Collection’s Director of Publishing, for a discussion about the making of the catalogue raisonné devoted to Robert Motherwell’s drawings. The program is held in conjunction with the Menil’s opening of “Robert Motherwell Drawing: As Fast as the Mind Itself.”
1974 070 DJ D v01 M-Press
Three Figures Shot 1944
Lyric Suite, 1965 (2)
Lyric Suite, 1965
Open Drawing, 1967
Untitled, 1967
The Widow, 1976

Related Program

Menil Drawing Institute
January 12, 2023 6:00 – 7:30 PM

Artists Angel Otero and Joseph Havel, alongside Phong Bui, Executive Director of The Brooklyn Rail, join Edouard Kopp, Chief Curator, Menil Drawing Institute, for a conversation exploring the influence of Robert Motherwell’s work on artists today.

Learn more


Exhibition Catalogue

A celebration of Robert Motherwell’s drawings that provides new insight into the thematic continuities and techniques that informed the artist’s working methods.

Throughout his long and prolific career, Robert Motherwell (1915–1991) sustained a fascination with making art on paper. His multifaceted drawing practice was an integral part of his search for a personal, spontaneous language of mark-making. Presenting works spanning from The Mexican Sketchbook of the early 1940s to the Joyce Sketchbook of the 1980s, this overview of Motherwell’s work on paper highlights the way the artist embraced the suggestive potential of his materials—blending the accidental and the intentional in the creative gesture. Large-scale reproductions encourage close looking and immerse the reader in details such as a stroke of the brush or a tear of paper, while an essay by Edouard Kopp examines how the artist’s practice of “automatic drawing” dovetailed with his love of paper and ink in the creation of these unique and compelling works. The book closes with Motherwell’s own “Thoughts on Drawing” (1970).

Purchase the Exhibition Catalogue