Born on January 24, 1915, Robert Motherwell, one of the most intellectually inclined Abstract Expressionists, studied philosophy at Stanford and Harvard Universities before moving to New York City in 1939. He came to prominence in the early 1950s with his Elegy paintings — grand gestural canvases with veiled political motivations.
The Deserted Studio is from the series Opens, in which Motherwell combined vigorously drawn geometric lines with expressionistically painted fields of color.
The warm blue in this painting evokes the sea, as well as the packaging for Gauloises cigarettes which can be found in the artist’s collages of the period. Motherwell intended the geometric forms in the Opens paintings to suggest windows or doorways, though because of their monochrome coloration, there was no differentiation in the paintings between interior and exterior. As he did throughout his career, Motherwell was pursuing philosophical as well as aesthetic issues in his Opens series.
Excerpt taken from the Birmingham Museum of Art Guide to the Collection.