Elegy to the Spanish Republic XXXIV, 1953–54
Oil on canvas
82 x 102 x 2 15/16 inches (208.3 x 259.1 x 7.5 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1957
Robert Motherwell painted more than one hundred works in the series "Elegy to the Spanish Republic." Each contains black, vertically oriented elements alternating with ovoid forms, and refers to the Spanish Civil War, which lasted from 1936 to 1939 and left fascist dictator Francisco Franco in power. Motherwell began the series in 1948, almost a decade after the war’s end, but recalled "I was twenty-one in 1936, and that was the most moving political event of the time."
The artists's studies in philosophy, psychoanalytic theory, and aesthetics are reflected in many aspects of the “Elegy” series. For example, the black-and-white contrasts that dominate the image could refer to opposites such as night and day, death and life, and oppression and freedom. This last interpretation is underscored by the colors in the background—those of the flag of the Spanish Republic—that are blotted out by the black forms in the foreground. Although Motherwell stated that the "Elegies" are not political, he did say they were his "private insistence that a terrible death happened should not be forgot."
There is a tinge of nostalgia in these images as well. An elegy is a song or poem that expresses sadness for something that is lost, and the rhythm of an elegy could be compared to the rhythm of the black forms moving slowly and solemnly across the canvas.
Activities for Families (PDF)
The museum is closed. Please visit us tomorrow between 10 am and 5 pm.
WORKS ON TOUR
Please note that many of our most popular works, featured in this summer’s exhibition Sincerely Yours: Treasures of the Queen City, will be on tour through fall 2015. We hope you will come and find your new favorites while these works are out serving as ambassadors for Buffalo!
CALL AHEAD TO CONFIRM
Installation information is subject to change. If you are planning to visit the museum to see a specific work of art, please call us first to confirm that it will be on view.
SEARCH OUR FINE ART COLLECTION
The Albright-Knox has more than 6,500 works in its Collection. Search Our Entire Fine Art Collection