Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974), best known as one of the original Abstract Expressionist artists, was one of the leading artists of his generation and was responsible for forging a new identity for American art in the mid-twentieth century. Unlike many colleagues who concentrated their efforts on painting, Gottlieb was a more diversified artist, completing major projects in various media including sculpture, prints, tapestries, and stained glass.
The group of monotypes in this exhibition provides a unique look at this artist’s final body of work. As a whole, they comprise a requiem of his mature life and career. Gottlieb began these works with no formal plan, in the spring of 1973. At that time, he was paralyzed by a stroke and was suffering from emphysema. His diminished energy and physical capacity limited the number of hours that he could devote to painting each day. However, due to Gottlieb’s artistic passion in making these monotypes, he discovered that he was able to immerse himself in these intimate works for extended periods. His monotypes explore the major themes of his career and show the artist’s deep joy and satisfaction in the manipulation of paint and plates.
The overall impact of these monotypes is profound. They are the personal notes of an experienced artist, who was aware that he was nearing the end of his life. He explored virtually every pictorial idea of his lengthy career and reached for new expressions with as much energy as he possessed. In a 1949 statement on printmaking, Gottlieb wrote, “The search for variations, however, is really the search for the best proof of the original idea, and when I find it, there is the evidence. “The search continued through his monotypes, where his explorations of ideas expressed as paint and inks, plate and surface, are as subtle and powerful as anything in his career.
The Fralin Museum of Art’s programming is generously supported by The Joseph and Robert Cornell Memorial Foundation. This exhibition was made possible by a generous gift from The Fralin Museum Volunteer Board. We would also like to thank our in-kind donors: WTJU 91.1 FM and Ivy Publications LLC’s Charlottesville Welcome Book.