Skip to main content

Robert Motherwell

The Red Skirt
1947

Not on view

Date
1947

Classification
Paintings

Medium
Oil on composition board

Dimensions
Overall: 48 × 24in. (121.9 × 61 cm)

Accession number
49.3

Portfolio
Personages

Credit line
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase

Rights and reproductions
© Dedalus Foundation, Inc. / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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.”  




Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
LaTurbo Avedon, Morning Mirror / Evening Mirror

Learn more

Face coverings are still required, even for vaccinated visitors. Learn more about the Whitney’s safety guidelines.