Robert Motherwell (1915-1991) Cabaret #4 (1974)
collage with german sheet music, torn paper, pencil and acrylic
initialed RM and dated '74 lower right
sheet: 22 x 10 1/2 inches
not examined out of frame
The Schulhof Collection
acquired Knoedler Gallery 1974 under director Lawrence Rubin
Collage first came into use as its own artistic medium thanks to the pioneering efforts of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. As they incorporated collage—from the French world coller, “to glue”—into their Cubist still lifes in the 1910s, the artists were able to create dynamic and textured compositions that challenged conventional art theory and notions of representation. Subsequent modern movements, such as Dadaism and Surrealism, expanded on the Cubists’ use of collage beyond still life, creating radical and evocative imagery that continued to push the boundaries of modernism. Robert Motherwell first began experimenting with collage in 1943. Motherwell was approached by Peggy Guggenheim to produce work for the first exhibition of collages in the United States—which included works by Picasso, Braque, and other modernists—to be held at her Art of This Century gallery. Motherwell took to collage “like a duck to water,” he says: “Regardless of the medium, whether it is in Eliot or Picasso or a TV thirty-second advertisement, I think collage is the twentieth century’s greatest creative innovation” (Press release for Robert Motherwell: Collage, June 5 – August 28, 2013, Bernard Jacobson Gallery, London). Motherwell went on to become one of the century’s most avid and accomplished collage artists. In Cabaret #4, we see Motherwell’s own innovative contribution to the medium of collage: his use of a torn, rather than cut, paper edge, which maintains the gestural emphasis of Abstract Expressionism. This action is echoed in blunt conte crayon strokes on the top and bottom of the sheet. By including the torn German sheet music, Motherwell bends our associations and preconceptions of artistic media, for although we cannot hear the rhythm of the piano, the bouncing notes add a lovely visual rhythm to the composition.