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Artist

Robert Motherwell (1915-1991)

Title

The Red Skirt

Date

1947

Medium

Oil on composition board

Dimensions

Overall: 48 × 24 in. (121.9 × 61 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase

Accession number

49.3

Object Label

The Red Skirt is the first of the large-scale compositions Robert Motherwell began in 1947. An abstracted depiction of a female figure, the painting recalls Picasso’s seated females of the 1930s, but the figure’s highly simplified representation also suggests the artist’s interest in the primordial imagery of prehistoric cave paintings. With its use of white, red, brown, and black pigments and expressive application of paint with a palette knife, the composition evokes the palette of these ancient images and the coarse texture of earthen walls. Although Motherwell soon rejected primitive themes for more modern subjects, he continued to recognize the importance of this work, later recalling, “Although the overall image now seems somewhat naïve to me, the ideas behind it do not. . .it reveals the intricacy of art and thought in general.”