Robert Motherwell was born on January 24, 1915 in Aberdeen, Washington. At the age of three, he moved with his family to California — first Los Angeles and then to San Francisco, where his father was the President for Wells Fargo Bank. In 1932, he attended Stanford University where he majored in philosophy. After graduation he spent the summer in Europe before entering Harvard Graduate School in 1937. Motherwell moved to New York in 1940 to study at Columbia University with Professor Meyer Shapiro. Motherwell strove to link American abstraction to European traditions. He became one of the founders of Abstract Expressionism and was strongly influenced by surrealist theories, particularly the principle of automatism. Motherwell had become deeply distressed by the Fascist overthrow of the Spanish Republic of which he was made aware while hearing Andre Malraux speak on the Spanish Civil War at a 1937 rally in San Francisco. Motherwell said that this was the beginning of his “political consciousness,” and the realization of “how the world could regress.”
 
In 1942 Motherwell met Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, as well as the veteran abstractionist Hans Hofmann. Meyer Shapiro introduced Motherwell to several of the European surrealists who had fled to New York during the war, including Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Andre Breton and Kurt Seligman. For a time, Motherwell worked with Seligman studying the art of engraving and after the war, in 1945, he spent about a month working in Stanley William Hayter’s print workshop in New York. In 1948 Motherwell painted the first works in a series entitled “Elegy to the Spanish Republic.”
 
Motherwell became a member of the “Irrascibles” in 1951 and joined a group of more than a dozen painters to demand that the Metropolitan Museum of Art recognize American Abstract Expressionism as a valid modern movement. He described the abstract art of the New York School as “an effort to close the void that modern men feel.” Motherwell’s career as a painter — and reputation as a theorist — continued to grow and flourish. Motherwell was the recipient of virtually every honor to be accorded a living artist and major retrospective exhibitions of his art have been held around the world. Motherwell died in Provincetown, Massachusetts in 1991.
 
 
"Much of Motherwell’s life was spent thinking about how and why man creates. Eventually, he understood that his own practice of painting was grounded in a set of beliefs, tested in the act of painting, and not easily transliterated into words.”
 
Dore Ashton 
“Motherwell, The Painter’s Life As A Banquet” in MOTHERWELL.
FUNDACIO ANTONI TAPIES, BARCELONA, 1996.
Jasper Johns was born May 15, 1930 in Augusta, Georgia. He studied at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and briefly at Parsons School of Design in New York. He served in the United States Army in Japan in 1949 and returned to New York, taking a job as a bookstore salesman and window display artist. He collaborated on costume and stage-set designs for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and received his first solo exhibition of paintings in 1958 at the Leo Castello Gallery. In 1957, the eminent art historian Meyer Shapiro had selected one of John’s paintings for exhibition at the Jewish Museum where it was seen by the dealer Castello, who had just opened a gallery in New York. Castello later met Johns while visiting with Robert Rauschenberg at his studio on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan. Johns’ studio was just one floor below Rauschenberg’s loft. Johns and Rauschenberg often worked together and consulted each other about ideas related to painting. Together, they became the most promising artists to follow Abstract Expressionism, and they reacted against it and raised questions about the direction of art in general. Their work was, however, not alike. Rauschenberg produced pieces that were controversial, even shocking, while Johns’ art was subdued and deliberately confined to a few selected images that he worked and reworked to explore the infinite number of possibilities of treating a single theme or subject. His paintings and prints were part of his “art-as-object,” and he also engaged in making sculpture from everyday objects such as light bulbs, flashlights, ale cans, and even a coffee can from his studio, stuffed full of paint brushes, cast in bronze and painted. These works, produced in the 1960’s, were forerunners of Pop Art, based on the imagery of consumerism and popular culture. 
 
Historians and critics have focused their attention on three distinct periods of Johns’ artistic development — the works on literal representations of banal objects (flags, maps, targets and numbers); abstract and fragmented works (cross-hatching, flagstones, slats and casts); and figurative images. Johns became interested in printmaking about 1960 when he began working with Tatyana Grossman. His first lithographs, published in 1963, and became an important part of his artistic interest.
 
 
"I have attempted to develop my thinking in such a way that the work I’ve done is not me — not to confuse my feelings with what I produced. I didn’t want my work to be an exposure of my feelings. Abstract-Expressionism was so lively — personal identity and painting were more or less the same, and I tried to operate the same way. But I found I couldn’t do anything that would be identical with my feelings. So I worked in such a way that I could say that it’s not me. That accounts for the separation.”
 
Jasper Johns
ART NEWS, 1973
Rafael Alberti is perhaps the most important Spanish surrealist poet and playwright of the twentieth century. He was born in Santa Marie, Cadiz in 1902 and educated in a Jesuit academy. He became internationally recognized at the age of 27 with an early masterpiece, Sobre los Angeles, 1929, a collection of poems focused on overcoming on feelings of anguish and despair. Unfortunately, little is known about Alberti’s early life except that in 1917 he settled in Madrid and wrote poetry based on Spanish folk themes. In addition to his writing, Alberti began his career as a painter and also wrote poetry on the subject, including To Painting, a Poem of Color and Line.
 
During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), Alberti fought on the Loyalist side as an airman and, after the defeat of the Popular Front, became a self-imposed political exile in Paris, Buenos Aires and Rome. His poetry was banned in Spain for being revolutionary in nature, and it was not until the death of Franco and Spain’s return to democracy in 1977 that he returned to Spain. Alberti died in October 1999, just weeks before his 97th birthday.
Samuel Beckett, the Nobel Prize winning playwright, poet, essayist, scriptwriter, novelist and translator, was born April 13, 1906 in the Dublin suburb of Foxrock, Ireland. He attended the exclusive Royal School in Enniskillen. Following graduation from Trinity College in Dublin, his early work was influenced by the Irish author James Joyce, whom he befriended during his first stay in Paris between 1928 and 1930. In 1937 Beckett moved to France where he lectured and published his works. He remained in France during the Second World War, living in the unoccupied zone from 1942 to 1944. In 1945, Beckett began writing in French and provided his own English translations.
 
Beckett became recognized as one of the most celebrated authors of twentieth century literature. His most significant impact has been in the field of contemporary drama, where he has influenced a whole generation of dramatists, including the playwrights Edward Albee and Sam Shepard. Contemporary literary critics have found his work to be devoid of traditional plots and recognizable characters. His writings often serve to attack language itself. Some critics consider his work to be part of the “literature of the absurd.” Explaining his decision to abandon his native language when writing, he said that in French, one could “write without style.” At the time of his death in 1989, he was hailed for his contribution to twentieth-century literature and his uncompromising and often shocking dramatizations of the human experience.