1st Edition

Robert Motherwell, Abstraction, and Philosophy

By Robert Hobbs Copyright 2020
    126 Pages
    by Routledge

    126 Pages
    by Routledge

      Employing an interdisciplinary approach, this book breaks new ground by considering how Robert Motherwell’s abstract expressionist art is indebted to Alfred North Whitehead’s highly original process metaphysics.

      Motherwell first encountered Whitehead and his work as a philosophy graduate student at Harvard University, and he continued to espouse Whitehead’s processist theories as germane to his art throughout his life. This book examines how Whitehead’s process philosophy—inspired by quantum theory and focusing on the ongoing ingenuity of dynamic forces of energy rather than traditional views of inert substances—set the stage for Motherwell’s future art.

      This book will be of interest to scholars in twentieth-century modern art, philosophy of art and aesthetics, and art history.

      1. Introduction

      2. Robert Motherwell, Harvard, and Alfred North Whitehead

      3. Motherwell’s Whitehead: The Felt Quality of Reality

      4. Surrealism’s Psychic Automatism, Motherwell’s Plastic Automatism, and Whitehead’s Process

      5. Motherwell’s Collage Aesthetic

      6. Whitehead’s Process and Susanne K. Langer’s Symbol

      7. Conclusion: Material Means, Immaterial Results

      Appendix A: Metaphors as Whiteheadian Prehensive Tools

      Appendix B: Intimacy and Ideology: Stéphane Mallarmé’s Materiality and Louis Althusser’s Aboutness

      Appendix C: Dore Ashton: The Arabesque


      Robert Hobbs has served as associate professor at Cornell University and long-term visiting professor at Yale University; he has also held the Thalhimer Endowed Chair of American Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.