BCD#16

Blind Contour Drawing #16 “Composition avec tache rouge” 1916 Maria Blanchard

María Blanchard was born in Santander in Cantabria, Spain. Her mother had an accident during her pregnancy that meant Blanchard was born with severe disabilities such as a deformation of the spine. As a result, she had a hunchback and found it very difficult to walk. She was teased heavily at school, which left her emotional scarred. However, Blanchard found painting to be a great way of escaping and expressing how she felt.

Her family was a huge influence in Blanchard’s decision to follow a career in art. Her father provided her with love and knowledge of art, and he helped to cultivate her artistic talent in drawing.

In 1903, Blanchard moved to study in Madrid where she began training with Spanish artists such as Emilio Sala and Manuel Benedito. With Sala, Blanchard learnt the precision of drawing and the expressive use of colour.

In 1909, after winning the third prize for one of her paintings at the ‘Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes,’ the Santander government decided to fund her education in the arts with a grant. With this aid, Blanchard went to study in Paris at the ‘Academie Vitti.’ While at the Academy, she discovered Cubism.

At the beginning of the WWI, Blanchard left Paris and returned to Madrid. She began teaching art in Salamanca and participated in some expositions. After the war, she returned to Paris, where she would spend the rest of her life.

In Paris, Blanchard began spending time with the many Cubist artists living there, and she was particularly good friends with the Cubist Spanish painter, Juan Gris. His influence can be seen in many of her paintings. She joined the Cubist art group and soon began developing her own style, involving bold colour that would often clash. Her paintings were very expressive and often intimidating. In the view of Jacques Lipchitz, Blanchard brought expressiveness and, above all, feeling to Cubism.

Her work attracted the attention of the most important art dealer at the time, Léonce Rosenberg. By 1919, he organized her first individual exhibition of cubist works. The following year she exhibited work in Belgium and France. In 1921, she showed work at the ‘Société des Artistes Indépendants.’ Her work was in high demand, however, due to the economic crisis following this period, many collectors stopped investing in her work. So despite her success, she became destitute. She had to rely on her friend, Frank Flausch, to support her and he did so until her death.

Blanchard’s good friend, Gris died in 1927, and the loss of this close friendship was too much for her to take. She became a recluse, even refusing to see any of her other artist friends. However, she did continue to paint.

Unfortunately, her health gradually got worse over the coming years, and at one point she contracted tuberculosis which made it impossible for her to paint. Eventually, in 1932, Blanchard died at the age of fifty-one.

Blanchard has been and continues to be one of the great unknown artists of the early 20th century. In the forties, it has been confirmed that her signature was removed from some of her work in order to add the name, Gris because of his higher market value. Art history tends to focus on Blanchard’s appearance and personal struggles with her health but recent investigation reveals that she was admired by her peers for her strong character and earned the respect of her colleagues, a difficult feat at the time, in a environment dominated by men. Curator, Maria Jose Salazar recently wrote that “her work has remained in the background in comparison with that of her avant-garde peers and friends. However, Blanchard was equal and in some cases superior to the latter, above all in her particular way of understanding and perceiving Cubism.”

 

Born: March 6, 1881 Santander, Spain
Died: April 5, 1932 Paris, France

BCD#15

Blind Contour Drawing #15 “The Creeks” 1957 Grace Hartigan

Hartigan was born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1922. Her interest in art didn’t begin until she was in her early 20’s. At 17 she fled New Jersey with her first husband Robert Jachens. The couple were headed to Alaska to homestead but turned around when they ran out of money and Hartigan discovered she was pregnant. Jachens was drafted in WWII and Hartigan lived with his parents, raising their son, Jeffrey. She worked as a mechanical draughtsman during the war. She escaped her dreary life by immersing into the world of art through books. She began taking art classes after being introduced to the work of Matisse, sparking a lifelong interest in modern art.

In 1945, she separated from her husband and moved to the Lower East Side of Manhattan to paint. Hartigan quickly became part of the inner circle of the Abstract Expressionists after meeting Rothko and Gottlieb.

At this time, she signed her work as George Hartigan, in honour of the 19th century women writers Georges Sand and George Eliot. She married twice in the 1940’s and both relationships ended because of the attention her work was receiving in the art world. She struggled financially and took odd jobs to support herself. In January 1948, after seeing a Jackson Pollock exhibition at the Betty Parsons Gallery, a new passion and perspective was ignited in her work.

Hartigan pursued this new energy and spent a week with Pollock and his wife, artist Lee Krasner, at their home in the Hamptons. Pollock encouraged Hartigan to look at the work of Willem de Kooning. In particular, she appreciated de Kooning’s study of the Old Masters and how he was breaking barriers between representation and abstract. Soon after, Hartigan began inserting recognizable images into her abstract paintings, which often consisted of thick, complex geometric shapes.

This new perspective earned her a solo debut at New York’s Tibor de Nagy Gallery in 1951. The following year she spent making studies based on Old Master paintings and she began to incorporate more recognizable imagery from her daily life into her work. These changes isolated her from her Abstract Expressionist friends, such as Joan Mitchell, and she lost the support from critic Clement Greenberg, which devastated Hartigan.

Hartigan painted intensely coloured gestural figures, inspired by coloring books, film, canonical painting, advertising, and life around her. The infamous painting “Marilyn,” which scatters facial features such as oversized lips and sparkling teeth across the canvas, was a breakthrough for her. Breaking up Monroe’s face was new and exciting for the time, while also challenging the standard for beauty.

Hartigan’s paintings were shown in ‘12 Americans’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York in 1956, and in ‘The New American Painting,’ which traveled to eight European cities from 1958 to 1959. She was one of few women painters to receive that level of exposure at the time. Hartigan was hailed by Life magazine as one of the best young female American painters.

In 1960, she married her fourth husband, Winston Price, a collector of modern art and an epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins University. She moved with him to Baltimore and began teaching in the MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art in 1965 and became director of the Hoffberger School of Painting. Her husband died in 1981 after an adverse reaction to a vaccine. She gave up drinking in 1983, after a failed attempt at suicide and lived until she was 86 years old.

She was a professor for 42 years and continued to paint until her death. She is well respected not only for her work but for her perseverance despite ofttimes heavy criticism.

Her distinct style has caused critics and historians to call Grace Hartigan both an Abstract Expressionist painter and a pioneer of Pop art. She was not happy however with either categorization because she believed that paintings must have content and emotion.  She has also been an admired pioneer of feminist art but disliked her paintings being judged according to gender.

Born: March 28, 1922 – Newark, New Jersey

Died: November 15, 2008 – Baltimore, Maryland

BCD#12

Blind Contour Drawing #12 “Self Portrait with Loose Hair” 1947 – Frida Kahlo

Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon has been celebrated worldwide as a symbol of Mexican national and Indigenous traditions but her work was largely over looked until the Feminist art movement of the 1970’s.

Kahlo spent most of her childhood and adult life at her family home now known and publicly accessible as the Frida Kahlo Museum. She suffered from polio as a child and nearly died in a bus accident as a teenager. Multiple fractures, a shattered pelvis, broken foot and dislocated shoulder from the accident plagued her with health issues for the rest of her life. She began to focus heavily on painting while recovering in a body cast and gave up her earlier ambitions of a higher education. She had 30 operations in her short lifetime.

In 1927, she joined the Mexican Communist Party and met muralist Diego Rivera. They married in 1928. Kahlo spent the late 1920s and early 1930s traveling in Mexico and the United States with Rivera while he was working.

During this time she developed her own style as an artist and drew her main inspiration from Mexican folk culture. She mostly painted small self-portraits. Her physical and emotional pain is depicted on canvases, as is her turbulent relationship with her husband, who she married twice. Life experience is a common theme in Kahlo’s work.

Her paintings raised the interest of Surrealist artist André Breton, who arranged for Kahlo to have her first solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York in 1938. The exhibition was a success and was followed by a show in Paris in 1939. The Louvre purchased a painting from Kahlo called “The Frame,” making her the first Mexican artist to be featured in their collection.

Throughout the 1940s, Kahlo continued to show in exhibitions in Mexico and the United States. Her health began to seriously decline and shortly after her first solo exhibition in Mexico in 1953, she died at the age of 47.

She was mainly known as Rivera’s wife until her work was “rediscovered” by art historians and political activists in the 1970’s. Since then she has become an international icon and celebrated by Mexicans, feminists and the LGBTQ movement.

By 1984, Kahlo’s reputation as an artist had grown to such extent that Mexico declared her works national cultural heritage. “Diego and I,” was auctioned by Sotheby’s for $1.4 million in 1990, the first Latin American artist to break the 1 million dollar threshold. In 2016, “Two Lovers in a Forest” sold for $8 million.

She is one of the most recognized artists in history and hopefully “Fridamania” carries with it her progressive values, strength and beauty.

Born – July 6, 1907 Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico
Died – July 13, 1954 Coyoacán, Mexico City, Mexico