Grace Hartigan: Content and Emotion

Katherine20th Century Art, American Paintings, Artist Spotlight, Contemporary / Modern Art, In the GalleryLeave a Comment

Grace Hartigan was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1922. She was the oldest of four children and created art as a teenager. She did study art briefly but is primarily self-taught. She described herself as a natural colorist, but had to work hard to learn to draw.

She became one of the first female Abstract Expressionist painters in New York.  She moved to New York City in 1946.  There she made friends with other artists, such as Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock.  While she admired these artists, Grace wanted to develop her own style.  She observed daily life on the city streets, and began incorporating it directly into her work.

Grace Hartigan


While living in New York, she had endless subjects from what she saw around her. The work of this time had Pop tendencies, although she was against what Pop Art stood for. She abstracted her subjects.  She also incorporated a political element into her work. She was an artist with something to say.  Many of the subjects she painted are things or ideas that she was against, but wanted to paint them to give them the “magic” she felt they lacked.  Her creative process was something Grace Hartigan worked on all her life. It was important that her paintings exhibit strong content and emotion.

Throughout the years, Grace eventually left New York with her husband for Maryland.  There she felt very isolated and her work became more self exploratory. Her legacy in art history is seen in her influence on many important painters from the generations that followed her, including Neo-Expressionists like David Salle and Julian Schnabel. Her willingness to expose the deeply personal side of herself is something that many contemporary artists admire in her work today. Grace Hartigan resented being called a “woman artist”.  She preferred to be thought of as simply an artist.



Kenny Ackerman is an Art Dealer in New York, specializing in Fine Art Paintings from 19th-21st century Europe and America. To buy or sell original paintings by artists we represent, contact Ackerman’s Fine Art here.

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