The Painterly Tenacity of Five Female Artists

Jenni Quilter at the TLS:

Mary Gabriel’s Ninth Street Women charts the rise of five female Abstract Expressionist painters in New York – Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell and Helen Frankenthaler – which is a bold move, since all of these women expressed vehement dislike of critics who used their gender as an ordering conceit. To be labelled a “lady painter” or the “wife of the artist” was an exoticization at best, a dismissal at worst. In 1957, Hartigan, Mitchell and Frankenthaler were featured in Life magazine’s feature “Women Artists in Ascendance”, photographed in their studios with their work. Each looks steadily at the camera. They knew the possible benefits of exposure, but they didn’t have to smile. In her introduction, Gabriel tells us that what she has written, “through the biographies of five remarkable women, is the story of a cultural revolution that occurred between the years of 1929 and 1959 as it arose out of the Depression and the Second World War, developed amid the Cold War and McCarthyism, and declined through the early boom years of America’s consumer culture”. Well, yes, but beyond these larger, sweeping assessments of society and gender there is a lot more.

more here.