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Robert Saltonstall Mattison

(b Aberdeen, WA, Jan 24, 1915; d Princetown, MA, July 16, 1991).

American painter, printmaker, and editor. A major figure of the Abstract Expressionist generation (see Abstract Expressionism), in his mature work he encompassed both the expressive brushwork of action painting and the breadth of scale and saturated hues of colour field painting, often with a marked emphasis on European traditions of abstraction.

Motherwell was sent to school in the dry climate of central California to combat severe asthmatic attacks and developed a love for the broad spaces and bright colours that later emerged as essential characteristics of his abstract paintings. His later concern with themes of mortality can likewise be traced to his frail health as a child. From 1932 he studied literature, psychology, and philosophy at Stanford University, CA, and encountered in the poetry of the French Symbolists an expression of moods that dispensed with traditional narrative. He paid tribute to these writers in later paintings such as ...