The Morris Museum
will present works by major American artist and New Jersey native Grace Hartigan in the exhibition Breaking Through: The Abstract Expressionism of Grace Hartigan. Hartigan (born in Newark in 1922) died at her home in Maryland on November 15, 2008. The Morris Museum’s retrospective, consisting of 17 works, will be the first museum exhibition since her death.
While the post-World War Two world was putting itself back together, art was taking itself apart, exploding into the psychological and emotional adventure of Abstract Expressionism. Grace Hartigan, after studying art in Newark, entered this cauldron of creative activity when she moved to New York in 1946. Her drive and talent enabled her to enter the Abstract Expressionists’ inner circle of Jackson Pollack, Milton Avery, and Willem deKoonong. In 1950, Hartigan’s work was included in the famous New Talent exhibition organized by influential art critic Clement Greenburg with Meyer Schapiro at the Samuel Koontz Gallery.
Throughout the 1950s, Hartigan and other women artists at the time faced resistance by the art establishment. Modernism, particularly Abstract Expressionism with its emphasis on “action painting,” was very much a male preserve as epitomized by the persona of the hard-living Jackson Pollack. Through her extraordinary talent, and a force of will that refused to become relegated to the sidelines, Hartigan overcame these barriers and was featured in seven solo exhibitions at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. In 1956 she was included in MoMA’s pivotal exhibition, “Twelve Americans.” Hartigan’s work continued to attract critical notice through the rest of her long career.
In 1960, Hartigan moved to Baltimore, where she continued producing powerful paintings. In 1967 she became the Director of the Hoffberger Graduate Scool of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Hartigan’s contribution to the development of American painting has been undisputed for many years. The Morris Museum is proud to celebrate Hartigan’s life, work and place in American art history .
This exhibition was organized in partnership with ACA Galleries, New York, and in conjunction with the artist prior to her death.