At Five in the Afternoon
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More about At Five in the Afternoon

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At Five in the Afternoon started when Motherwell’s buddy, Harold Rosenberg, the writer, philosopher and art critic, wrote a poem on a piece of paper for him to illustrate in 1948.

Months later, that little drawing turned into a larger painting that started an entire series for Motherwell called Elegies to the Spanish Republic, which consists of over 100 paintings all done between 1948 and 1967. This series may or may not have been inspired by Picasso’s Guernica but what wasn’t at this time? He named this particular painting after the poem, "Lament for Ignacio Sanchez Mejias," by Federico Garcia Lorca which includes the phrase “at five in the afternoon” no less than twenty-five times and details the death of a famous bullfighter at, you guessed it, five in the afternoon. So basically the only credit he can take for this painting is the actual painting itself, not the inspiration or the title. But it’s cool - Motherwell is still a master amongst the Abstract Expressionists.

When looking at this painting, you may see something like silhouettes of heads peeping out a window or jelly beans in black and white but you’d be wrong. “This painting embodies what Motherwell understood as a ‘Spanish’ sense of death, an aesthetic based on strong passion austerely but persuasively communicated.” He may have been shooting for one black oval for every “five in the afternoon” mentioned in the poem but not unlike a child making a birthday poster, he ran out of room at the end, resulting in an obviously cramped last oval. He tried harder on the last hundred paintings in this series though so it’s chill.




  1. "Robert Motherwell | At Five In The Afternoon (1948 -1949) | Artsy." Web. 28 July 2017.
  2. "At Five In The Afternoon - Robert Motherwell." FAMSF Explore the Art. Web. 28 July 2017.