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Grace Hartigan Gone

from The New York Times

Grace Hartigan, 86, Abstract Painter, Dies

Grace Hartigan, a second-generation Abstract Expressionist whose gestural, intensely colored paintings often incorporated images drawn from popular culture, leading some critics to see in them prefigurings of Pop Art, died on Saturday in Baltimore. She was 86.

The cause was liver failure, said Julian Weissman, a longtime dealer of hers.

Ms. Hartigan, a friend and disciple of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, subscribed to the Abstract Expressionist notion of the painterly brushstroke as existential act and cri de coeur but, like de Kooning, she never broke entirely with the figurative tradition. Determined to stake out her own artistic ground, she turned outward from the interior world sanctified by the Abstract Expressionists and embraced the visual swirl of contemporary American life.

In “Grand Street Brides” (1954), one of several early paintings that attracted the immediate attention of critics and curators, she depicted bridal-shop window mannequins in a composition based on Goya’s “Royal Family.” Later paintings incorporated images taken from coloring books, film, traditional paintings, store windows and advertising, all in the service of art that one critic described as “tensely personal.”

“Her art was marked by a willingness to employ a variety of styles in a modernist idiom, to go back and forth from art-historical references to pop-culture references to autobiographical material,” said Robert Saltonstall Mattison, the author of “Grace Hartigan: A Painter’s World” (1990).

Grace Hartigan 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.

[ click to read full obituary at NYTimes.com ]

Posted on November 21, 2008 by Editor

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