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'This picture began as an Elegy. It was done in Spain. And I used to be very interested in bull fighting. And took my wife who had never seen one, on the day as it turned out, the three greatest fighters in Spain were fighting, Dominguin and Ordonez and so on, and also the Queen of Persia, who had just been rejected by the King because she was barren, was present. And of course, bull fighting is a royal sport and the bull fighters outdid themselves, till the center of the ring, which is yellow ochre sand, was a pool of blood. And Spanish bulls are very small coal black with tiny joints. So if they turn too fast, they're apt to trip over, very quick, and gleam like coal. I was printing this picture internally in formal consideration, so to speak. Adjusting among edges, curves, rhythms et cetera. And it was only long afterward that I realized, and consequently I called it Iberia, that I painted the underside on one of the black bulls against the sand of the arena.’

- Robert Motherwell

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present a significant painting in The Box by Robert Motherwell, a major proponent in the development of Abstract Expressionism. Iberia no. 30 (1969), an unusually small painting from Motherwell’s iconic Iberia series, encapsulates the indelible impression that the Spanish Civil War left upon the artist. Motherwell's description of the bullfight in the quote above can subsequently be read as being analogous to the struggle of war. This is manifested in the painting by the encroachment of an impenetrable mass of thick, black brushstrokes upon a small flourish of white paint in the lower righthand corner. Other Iberia paintings completed at the same time were later revised but this work appears to have retained its original form. Similar works from this series can be found in the collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York; Tate, London; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.

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Robert Motherwell
Iberia No. 30, 1969
acrylic on canvas board
20.3 x 25.4 cm, 8 x 10 in
Installation view: The Box, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2017)