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Artists’ Birthdays: March the 28th – Grace Hartigan (1922)

March 28, 2012

Would you like to know it all? We would! That’s why the theme for our Know It All Section for 2012 is Artists’ Birthdays. We hope that these posts will help to increase our and your knowledge in Art History. Lets get acquainted with more painters, lets recognise their artwork and be inspired by the masterpieces!

This time we are talking about one more woman – Grace Hartigan. I’ve chosen her for our “Artists’ Birthdays” section because she was the only woman artist in the Museum of Modern Art’s legendary The New American Painting exhibition, which toured Europe in the late 1950s. I’d say this is quite a big achievement in our rather masculine world, wouldn’t you?

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Grace Hartigan (1922 - 2008)

Grace Hartigan (March 28, 1922 – November 15, 2008) was born in Newark in 1922 and grew up in rural New Jersey, the oldest of four children. Unable to afford college, she married early and, in a flight of romantic fancy, she and her husband, Bob Jachens, struck out for Alaska to live as pioneers. They made it no farther than California, where, with her husband’s encouragement, she took up painting.

“I didn’t choose painting,” she later told an interviewer. “It chose me. I didn’t have any talent. I just had genius.”

In the mid-1940’s she left her husband, placed their son, Jeffrey, in the care of his parents and moved back to Newark, where she trained in mechanical drafting and took painting lessons with Isaac Lane Muse.

Grace Hartigan gained her reputation as part of the New York School of artists and painters that emerged in New York City during the 1940s and ’50s. She was a lively participant in the vibrant artistic and literary milieu of the times, and her friends included Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Frank O’Hara, Knox Martin, and many other painters, artists, poets, and writers of the time.

Grace Hartigan. Shinnecock Canal. 1957. Oil on canvas.

In 1949 she married the artist Harry Jackson, “not one of my more serious marriages,” she later said. The marriage was annulled after a year. In 1959 she married Robert Keene, a gallery owner, whom she divorced a year later. In 1960 she married Winston Price, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University who collected modern art and had bought one of her paintings. (After injecting himself with an experimental vaccine against encephalitis in 1969 and contracting spinal meningitis, he began a long descent into physical and mental illness that ended with his death in 1981.)

The-The #1, 1962. Oil on canvas, 80cm x 115cm

Ms.Hartigan relocated to Baltimore, Maryland in the 1960s where she resided until her death. Her move to Baltimore coincided with a drastic shift in artistic fashion, as Pop Art and Minimalism eclipsed Abstract Expressionism. Out of the spotlight, Ms. Hartigan embarked on what she later recalled as “an isolated creative life.” For decades she painted in a loft in a former department store and taught at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The college created a graduate school around her, the Hoffberger School of Painting, of which she became director in 1965.

“Pop Art is not painting because painting must have content and emotion,” she said in the 1960’s. On the other hand, she reflected at the time of the Whitney show, “I’d much rather be a pioneer of a movement that I hate than the second generation of a movement that I love.”

In 1979 the C. Grimaldis Gallery introduced Grace Hartigan’s work to Baltimore, Maryland with the “Paintings Of The Seventies” solo exhibition. She continued on to have a solo exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art the following year. In a feature article in The Baltimore Sun Sunday Magazine Cherrill Anson wrote, “The most celebrated woman painter in the United States today, Miss Hartigan has made her studio in a four-story former rag factory a block from the waterfront for two years-ever since she married the Johns Hopkins scientist Dr. Winston H. Price and moved to Baltimore from New York.”

”Crowning of the Poet” by Grace Hartigan; 1985

The C. Grimaldis Gallery remains Grace Hartigan’s primary representation in Baltimore since the beginning of their relationship in 1979 and has continued as the executor of her estate since 2008.

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Information found on Wikipedia and the New York Times.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 28, 2012 5:02 pm

    Thank you for this great post! To my embarrassment, I did not know of Ms. Hartigan. Thank you for filling in this gap in my education! Her work is stunning.

    Best wishes. Elliott

    • March 30, 2012 6:06 am

      Thank you for leaving a comment on our blog, Elliott. You have lots of interesting things on Art on yours, so I have added it to our “inspiration hides here” blog list.

      Kind Regards, Kristina

  2. thecolourofideas permalink
    March 28, 2012 7:12 pm

    I was going to say exactly the same as the previous comment, really interesting post and an artist I had not heard of either so thanks for sharing 🙂

    • March 30, 2012 6:10 am

      I’m very glad you found the post interesting, Sandra. To tell the truth I’m the one with a BIG gap in their knowledge on modern artists, so I’m happy to hear that when I’m “learning”, lots of people benefit too 🙂

  3. March 29, 2012 9:04 am

    As above! Thanks for educating us.

    • March 30, 2012 6:30 am

      Thank you for leaving a comment! And… as above – glad you can join us in the process of educating ourselves. Kristina

  4. bonniehull permalink
    March 31, 2012 6:21 pm

    Nice post…like her work…like your work…art world rules!

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