Key Ideas about this Work of Art
- Grace Hartigan was a famous artist at a time when almost all successful artists were men. She was the only woman artist whose works were included in an art exhibition called The New American Painting.
- Hartigan was part of the New York School, a group of artists in New York City that led the abstract expressionist movement. Rather than creating realistic-looking artwork, abstract expressionists depicted their inner thoughts and feelings.
- Hartigan began her career making abstract art. She later transitioned to making more representational art. She painted Interior with Mexican Doll during this transition in her style. It features recognizable elements as well as abstract shapes.
Grace Hartigan was one of only a few famous women artists of her time. Social and economic factors kept most women from having successful art careers, so Hartigan’s success is unique. She originally exhibited her work under the name George Hartigan in order to get more recognition as an artist. She began using her own name on her paintings in 1954.
Hartigan was also a leading artist of the abstract expressionist movement. Abstract expressionists created art that showed their emotions and thoughts rather than making realistic-looking art. The abstract expressionist movement began in New York City, and many of the artists who were part of it were known as the New York School. Hartigan worked with many successful artists of the New York School, including Jackson Pollock, Helen Frankenthaler, and Robert Motherwell. Hartigan was the only woman to have artwork featured in an exhibition called The New American Painting. This exhibition toured throughout Europe and helped abstract expressionist art become popular throughout the world.
Hartigan made fully abstract art at the beginning of her career. Her early paintings were full of shapes, lines, and color, but they did not have any recognizable imagery. Later in her career, she began creating more representational art. Representational art features realistic, recognizable elements. Hartigan painted Interior with Mexican Doll during the shift in her art style. According to the artist, this painting began as a still life of items in her studio. Some of the items in the painting are recognizable, like houseplants, a plaster cast of a classical head, and a papier-mâché Mexican doll. As the painting progressed, some of the forms disappeared under layers of paint. This resulted in a combination of representation and abstraction. Hartigan was criticized for changing her art style, but she stood by her decision to create the type of artwork she wanted to create.
I want an art that is not “abstract” and not “realistic.”
Resources for Teachers:
- Watch a video of Hartigan discussing her art and process.
- Explore a lesson plan about women in art from the National Gallery of Art.
- Explore educator resources about abstract expressionism from the Museum of Modern Art.
- View other paintings by this artist.
Resources for Students: