Hartigan, Grace

Alternative names
Birth 1922-03-28
Death 2008-11-15

Biographical notes:

Painter; Baltimore, Md.

From the description of Grace Hartigan interview, 1979 May 10 [sound recording]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 81992713

Painter; b. 1922.

From the description of Oral history interview, 1975. (Maryland Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 32822067

Grace Hartigan (1922-, painter of Baltimore, Md.

From the description of Oral history interview with Grace Hartigan, 1979 May 10. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 646397329

Grace Hartigan was an important participant in the Abstract Expressionist School of art, which emerged in New York City in the 1950s. Her circle of friends included Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Frank O'Hara, and many other luminaries of the artistic and literary scene. She has had dozens of solo exhibits as well as participation in group shows, and her paintings are held by the most prestigious national and international museums. Since 1965 she has been director of the Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting, Maryland Institute of Art. In that capacity, she has influenced students from all over the world.

Grace Hartigan was born in Newark, New Jersey on March 28, 1922. During a bout of pneumonia at age 6, she taught herself to read and draw, although she did not take formal art lessons until she was nearly twenty. In 1941, she married Robert Jachens and traveled to Los Angeles, where she took her first drawing classes. In 1942, after the birth of her son Jeffrey, she returned East, worked as a draftsman in a war plant, and began studying with Newark, New Jersey painter Isaac Lane Muse. Moving to New York City in 1945, Hartigan became acquainted with several important artists, many of whom remained lifelong friends and artistic allies: Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb and Mark Rothko. Hartigan and Robert Jachens divorced in 1947.

In 1948 she was deeply impressed by an exhibit of Jackson Pollock's work and met both Pollock and Willem de Kooning. In 1949 she married fellow painter Harry Jackson, and they spent most of that year painting in Mexico. Hartigan was painting full time and in 1950 returned to New York City; her marriage to Jackson was annulled that same year. After exhibiting in several small avant-garde shows, her work was selected by Clement Greenberg for the Koontz Gallery's "Meyer Schapiro New Talent" Exhibit. The next year Hartigan had her first solo exhibit at Tibor de Nagy Gallery, a new gallery run by John Bernard Myers, and, in 1952, a second solo show there. In 1953, at her third show at Tibor de Nagy, the Museum of Modern Art purchased her painting Persian Jacket. Despite this coup and the critical notice she was receiving, Hartigan continued to struggle financially.

Like other painters of the Abstract Expressionist scene in 1950s New York, Hartigan was closely associated – personally and professionally – with several outstanding poets of the time such as Barbara Guest, James Schuyler and Frank O'Hara. She incorporated the text of O'Hara's poems "Oranges" into a series of twelve paintings, also titled "Oranges," in 1953. Later in her career, she created prints based on work by James Schuyler and Barbara Guest.

In 1959 she married gallery owner Robert Keene, participated in several international exhibitions including "Twelve Americans," "Art in Embassies," and "New American Painting," and was featured in a Life magazine essay. In 1960 she divorced Keene, married Dr. Winston Price, an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University and an Abstract Expressionist collector, and moved to the Baltimore, Maryland area, where she lives and works today.

In the early 1960s, she invented a new medium, watercolor collage, using washes to create form, then tearing and reassembling the pieces. In 1965 she approached the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) to explore the possibility of her teaching graduate students there. Almost immediately, her offer was accepted and she continues not only to teach at the Hoffberger School but also to serve as its director.

In 1969 her husband became ill as a result of a self-administered experimental vaccine. For this and other reasons the 1970s proved emotionally trying for Hartigan, as reflected in her work from this period. Dr. Price died in 1981. In the early 1980s, Hartigan focused on heroines as her subject matter. She created a series of Paper Dolls based on 1930s movie stars and did a series of "Great Queens and Empresses" including Theodora, Empress of Byzantium; Elizabeth I of England, Empress Josephine of France; and Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Hartigan continues to paint and direct students to the present day (2006). She was the subject of a major monograph, Grace Hartigan: A Painter's World, by art historian Robert Mattison, as well as two important exhibit guides, Grace Hartigan and the Poets, by Terrence Diggory and Painting Art History, by Sharon L. Hirsh.

From the guide to the Grace Hartigan Papers, 1942-2006, (Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries)


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Ark ID:


  • Painting, American
  • Painters--United States
  • Abstract expressionism--United States
  • Painters--Interviews
  • Art--American (?)--Reproductions
  • Women artists--United States
  • Art, American--20th century
  • Artists
  • Art, American
  • Women painters--Interviews
  • Women painters--United States
  • Art--Painters
  • Abstract Expressionism
  • Painting, Modern--20th century--United States
  • Painting, Modern--20th century


  • Painter
  • Artists


  • New York (State)--New York (as recorded)
  • Maryland--Baltimore (as recorded)
  • Maryland--Baltimore (as recorded)
  • Maryland--Baltimore (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)