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Motherwell wrote of this painting 'I almost never start with an image. I start with a painting idea, an impulse, usually derived from my own world. Though images may sometimes emerge from some chord in my unconscious, the way a dream might. In 'Iberia', for example, you would have to know that a Spanish bull ring is made of sand of an ocher colour, and that Spanish bulls are very small, quick and coal black'. This picture is 'an equivalence of the ferocity of the whole encounter'. Motherwell painted a series of elegies for the Spanish Republic, which was defeated in the Spanish Civil War. In these paintings, as in 'Iberia No. 2', black symbolised death and anxiety. Here it threatens to engulf the land.

September 2004