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Lyric Suite (D65-1749)


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  • Medium

    Black ink on rice paper

  • Dimensions

    Paper: 11 × 9 in. (27.94 × 22.86 cm)
    Frame (black painted wood with gold front): 18 1/8 × 16 1/8 × 1 3/4 in. (46.04 × 40.96 × 4.45 cm)

  • Credit

    The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
    Partial and promised gift of Steven Roth

  • Accession number


  • Object label

    Robert Motherwell made the Lyric Suite drawings by working on the floor, allowing his hand to play freely and letting the drawings, as he said, “pour out” of him. He splashed and brushed the ink with minimal intention. He also incorporated elements of chance into the process: the ink bled into the Japanese rice paper in unpredictable but welcome ways. Motherwell had been commissioned to paint a mural, and he proposed a spontaneously produced, abstract image. This was in keeping with abstract expressionism’s method of working in an unpremeditated manner, based on the idea that, lacking preconception, the artist could tap into unconscious impulses. In preparation for the mural, Motherwell decided to make one thousand automatic, or improvisational, drawings, which became the Lyric Suite. He completed nearly six hundred of them in six weeks, when the death of a dear friend, sculptor David Smith, stalled the project.

    Motherwell taught at Black Mountain College in 1945 and 1950.