Robert Motherwell Sets Record at Auction

Robert Motherwell’s At Five in the Afternoon set an auction record for the artist in May. The ten-foot long painting sold for $12.7 million at Phillips Auction House. Five in the Afternoon is just one in a series of Motherwell’s Elegy paintings and prints that the artist worked on, and refined, over the course of many years.

Motherwell initially did a sketch of the painting as an illustration for a magazine project that was never completed. He put it away and forgot about it until he came across it, during a move, about two years later. Motherwell said that he was of a generation that was greatly influenced by the Spanish Civil War and, subsequently, World War ll.

The painting is an homage to Spanish poet Federico García Lorca, who was thought to have been killed by right-wing extremists in 1936. His poem, Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías, was a eulogy to Mejías, a bullfighter and poet, who was killed after being gored by a bull, at five in the afternoon, on August 11, 1934.

The first version of the painting was lost to Motherwell in his divorce settlement with ex-wife Helen Frankenthaler. Motherwell was not happy about losing the work and so he did a better…and much larger…version of At Five in the Afternoon in 1971, while also working on his Basque Series.

Most of the works from the Elegy series are in museums, but Chicago-based designer and collector, Holly Hunt, bought At Five in the Afternoon from Motherwell’s gallery in 1981. She’s moving, downsizing and decided to sell the painting.

Stolen Robert Motherwell Returned by Feds After Being Tucked Away in a Garage for Forty Years

An unidentified man was helping his mother clean up her garage in upstate New York, when he came across a large painting with Robert Motherwell’s name on the back of the canvas. The man did an internet search and then called the Dedalus Foundation, which Motherwell set up in 1981, to educate the public about modern art. He asked the Foundation  to authenticate the painting.

Jack Flam, the president and CEO of the Dedalus Foundation, did some research and realized the painting was one of a few dozen paintings that went missing in 1978, when they were moved from one storage unit to another. Flam called the FBI. The Feds art crime investigators determined that the man’s father, who died in the 1990s,  had worked for the storage company at the time the paintings were stolen. They believe that the son did not know that the painting was stolen. The untitled work was returned to the Dedalus Foundation.

Robert Motherwell Works at Vertu Fine Art

Robert Motherwell was a masterful printmaker. He spent the early months of 1970 at the Kelpra Studio in London, working on silkscreens for the Basque Suite and other works. In 1972 he set  up his own print shop and, the following year he began working with master printmaker Kenneth Tyler at Gemini G.E.I.

Please contact us if you would like more information about Robert Motherwell’s Black and Blue from the Basque Series, Harvest with Two White Stripes or any of the other fine art prints available at VFA.

See More Robert Motherwell Work for Sale

Eileen Kinsella. The FBI Has Recovered a Crimson Robert Motherwell Painting Stolen 40 Years Ago by a Moving Man. artnetnews. July12, 2018.
The Washington Post.Robert Motherwell painting stolen in 1978 in New York is returned. July 13, 2018.
Katya Kazakina. Holly Hunt’s Robert Motherwell painting fetches $12.96 million.Crain’s Chicago Business. April 12, 2018.
John Yau. Another Look at Robert Motherwell. Hyper allergic. June 7, 2015.