"I didn't have talent . . . I only had genius"

Grace Hartigan Died the Other Day

You might have seen the New York Times obit for Grace Hartigan who died on Saturday at the age of 86. But you’re missing the best parts of her rollicking life story if you don’t read Vicky Goldberg’s 1993 profile. Here are a few tastes just to convince you. Hartigan was included in a show called “Hand painted Pop” despite her antipathy toward the movement:

In fact, Ms. Hartigan considers this show a kind of resurrection. “I’d much rather be a pioneer of a movement that I hate,” she said, “than the second generation of a movement that I love.” In the 50’s, fame turned a sudden spotlight on her, then in 1960 abruptly turned it off. She had her first show in 1950, when she was 28, and three years later the second painting she ever sold was bought by the Museum of Modern Art. In the late 50’s Life magazine pronounced her “the most celebrated of the young American women painters,” Newsweek featured her in a column next to one about Judy Garland, and she was the only woman represented in “The New American Painting” exhibition that introduced contemporary American art to Europe in 1958-59. But when she married in 1960 and moved to Baltimore, she sank from view faster than the Titanic.

That brief synopsis barely hints at the wonderful details and poignant unhappiness she experienced. She told Clement Greenberg off and was told by de Kooning that she completely misunderstood art history. But she never wavered in her commitment to painting no matter how or where she lived:

Grace Hartigan, as Irving Sandler puts it, is a fully committed painter. “She simply dismissed the vicissitudes of the art market, the succession of new trends in the art world. This didn’t in any real or important way affect her. Grace is the real thing.”

Grace Hartigan Still Hates Pop (The New York Times)