You are here: Grace Hartigan and Helene Herzbrun: Reframing Abstract Expressionism

Grace Hartigan and Helene Herzbrun: Reframing Abstract Expressionism

September 3-October 20, 2019
Curated by Norma Broude, American University Art History Professor Emerita  

Helene Herzbrun, Aeroplat, 1970.

Helene Herzbrun, Aeroplat, 1970. Acrylic on canvas, framed: 70 3/4 × 74 1/2 × 1 1/4 in., image: 70 × 73 3/4 in. American University Museum, Gift of Roger S. and Belle O. Kuhn. 1984.5.

Grace Hartigan, Snow Angel, 1960.

Grace Hartigan, Snow Angel, 1960. Oil on canvas, 69 × 72 in. Perry Collection.

Grace Hartigan, Beware of the Gifts, 1971.

Grace Hartigan, Beware of the Gifts, 1971. Oil on canvas, framed: 79 3/4 × 103 × 1 1/2 in., image: 79 1/4 × 102 1/2 in. American University Museum, Gift of the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Childe Hassam Fund), 1975.6.1.

Helene Herzbrun, Landscape (Rising from Purple), c. 1958-1960.

Helene Herzbrun, Landscape (Rising from Purple), c. 1958-1960. Oil on canvas, framed: 51 1/8 × 69 × 1 1/2 in., image: 50 1/4 × 68 1/4 in. American University Museum, Gift of Lynne V. Walker, in Memory of Lois Dean Stout. 1997.3.1.

Grace Hartigan (1922-2008) and Helene Herzbrun (1922-1984) were both remarkable painters of the second Abstract-Expressionist generation who lived and worked as influential artists and teachers in the Baltimore/Washington region for many decades. Although they began their careers as gestural abstractionists in the mold of Pollock and de Kooning, both went on to reinvent and revitalize the signature styles of the Ab-Ex movement in powerful and personal ways. They were enabled to do so in large part by their self-selected, “outside-of-New York” locale, which permitted each of these very different artists to develop her own dialogue with painting, away from the shifting fashions and pressures of the commercial mainstream.

Accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, with an essay by Norma Broude, this show brings together more than two dozen large-scale and rarely seen works by Hartigan and Herzbrun from private and public collections, many in the Baltimore/Washington area. It redirects our attention to the local contexts and communities in which these works were produced and deepens our understanding of the relationship between mainstream modernist movements such as Ab-Ex and their rich regional transformations.

Norma Broude is Professor Emerita of Art History at American University in Washington, DC, where she taught from 1975 to 2011. A specialist in nineteenth-century French and Italian painting, she is known for her critical reassessments of Impressionism in general and the work of Edgar Degas in particular. Her books include The Macchiaioli: Italian Painters of the Nineteenth Century (1987) and Impressionism, A Feminist Reading: The Gendering of Art, Science, and Nature in the Nineteenth Century (1991). Among her edited books are World Impressionism: The International Movement (1990), Gustave Caillebotte and the Fashioning of Identity in Impressionist Paris(2002), and Gauguin’s Challenge: New Perspectives After Postmodernism (2018). She has served as General Editor of The Rizzoli Art Series and as a member of the College Art Association's Art Bulletin Advisory Committee.

A pioneering and internationally noted feminist art historian, Broude is co-editor (with Mary D. Garrard) and contributor to four influential anthologies of feminist art historical studies, including The Power of Feminist Art: The American Movement of the 1970s, History and Impact (1994). With Garrard, she organized and wrote the catalogue for the exhibition Claiming Space: Some American Feminist Originators, which was shown at the American University Museum in 2007.

Professor Broude has received grants in support of her work from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the US Department of Education, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Rockefeller Foundation. She has lectured at major museums and universities including the Courtauld Institute of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the National Gallery of Art, and the Fogg Museum at Harvard. Her articles have appeared in The Art Bulletin, The Burlington Magazine, The Gazette des Beaux-Arts, and other journals.