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Restless ambition : Grace Hartigan, painter PDF

449 Pages·2015·5.32 MB·English
by  Curtis
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Restless Ambition Restless Ambition Grace Hartigan, Painter CATHY CURTIS 1 1 Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University’s objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. Oxford New York Auckland Cape Town Dar es Salaam Hong Kong Karachi Kuala Lumpur Madrid Melbourne Mexico City Nairobi New Delhi Shanghai Taipei Toronto With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam Oxford is a registered trade mark of Oxford University Press in the UK and certain other countries. Published in the United States of America by Oxford University Press 198 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016 © Cathy Curtis 2015 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission in writing of Oxford University Press, or as expressly permitted by law, by license, or under terms agreed with the appropriate reproduction rights organization. Inquiries concerning reproduction outside the scope of the above should be sent to the Rights Department, Oxford University Press, at the address above. You must not circulate this work in any other form, and you must impose this same condition on any acquirer. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Curtis, Cathy (Writer on art) Restless ambition : Grace Hartigan, painter / Cathy Curtis. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-19-939450-0 (alk. paper) 1. Hartigan, Grace. 2. Painters—United States—Biography. 3. Women painters—United States—Biography. I. Title. ND237.H3434C87 2015 759.13—dc23 [B] 2014020233 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper In memory of my parents, who taught me to read, encouraged my writing, and were baffled by modern art Contents How I Came to Write This Book ix Prologue: The Weekend That Changed Her Life 1 P ART ONE: Escape Artist (1922–1944) 1. Dreaming 7 2. Searching 20 3. Learning 26 PART TWO: New York Adventure (1945–1949) 4. Risking 35 5. Connecting 41 6. Coping 50 P ART THREE: Rising Star (1950–1955) 7. Struggling 61 8. Launching 86 9. Succeeding 105 10. Asserting 122 viii Contents PART FOUR: Fame (1956–1960) 11. Celebrating 147 12. Swerving 165 PART FIVE: Beginning Again in Baltimore (1961–2008) 13. Drifting 197 14. Teaching 219 15. Unraveling 237 16. Renewing 264 17. Prevailing 278 Acknowledgments 303 Notes 307 Bibliography 381 Index 397 How I Came to Write This Book when i met grace hartigan—she came out to California in 1988 for the opening of The Figurative Fifties, a museum exhibition that included paint- ings of hers from the 1950s—she was an earthy and voluble sixty-six-year-old woman, enjoying a second hurrah of renown. I was a young cultural reporter and art critic at the Los Angeles Times, pleased that her chattiness was making my job so easy. Sitting on her sunny hotel balcony, Grace talked about how, when she was thirty-one and her painting The Persian Jacket was purchased by the Museum of Modern Art, she no longer had to live on “oatmeal and bacon ends.” About how odd it was to see a photograph of herself in Newsweek in 1959, across the page from a shot of Judy Garland. And about how, although she considered herself an Abstract Expressionist, she felt “absolutely free” to use recognizable images in her work. “You don’t live a category,” she said. “You were just hang- ing out with a lot of interesting people.” Fast-forward to October 2010. Visiting the Museum of Modern Art on a trip to New York, I rounded a corner at the Abstract Expressionist New York exhibition and came face to face with a nearly eight-foot-tall painting. I was stunned at the power and beauty of its slashing blocks of vivid color—a work that held its own among canvases by the likes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Peering at the label, I saw that this was Shinnecock Canal (plate 11), painted by Grace in 1957. Who was this woman who had shouldered her way to the top of the male club that was the New York art world of her era? How did she get there, and why did she fall so abruptly off the art map? Always fascinated by biography, I was avidly reading obituaries in search of someone whose life combined great achievement with a complex, intriguing personality. Now I had finally found her.

This first-ever biography of American painter Grace Hartigan traces her rise from virtually self-taught painter to art-world fame, her plunge into obscurity after leaving New York to marry a scientist in Baltimore, and her constant efforts to reinvent her style and subject matter. Along the way, the
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