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Painters and Poets Together: The Folder Story


Kite Flying Party

Hartigan, Rivers, and O'Hara

"Meditations in an Emergency"

Painters Pay Tribute to Frank O'Hara

Continued Interest in the New York School

Painters and Poets Collaborate

An Explosion of Magazines


Selected Bibliography

Related Links:

Imagination: The 2006 Syracuse Symposium


A Celebration of the New York School Artists

Painters and Poets Collaborate

Willem de Kooning (1904-97)
Revenge, 1960
from portfolio 21 Etchings and Poems
etching and aquatint on wove paper
11¾x 13½ in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Collection purchase

Franz Kline (1910-62)
Poem, 1960
from portfolio 21 Etchings and Poems
etching, aquatint, and drypoint on wove paper
8 x 14 in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Collection purchase

Larry Rivers (1923-2002)
Poetry of K. Koch, 1961
oil and crayon on paper mounted on board
47½ x 61 in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Collection purchase

The New York School at Syracuse University Art Galleries

Willem de Kooning (1904-97)
Weil Plaza, 1964
oil on newspaper mounted on masonite
23 x 36 in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Collection purchase

Theodoros Stamos (1922-97)
Composition, 1946
oil on masonite
13¼ x 15¼ in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Gift of Mr. Simon Askin

Helen Frankenthaler (b. 1928)
Air Frame, 1965
color screenprint on wove paper
22 x 17 in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Collection purchase

Fairfield Porter (1907-75)
No Standing Any Time, ca. 1972
color lithograph on wove paper
22 x 29 in.
Syracuse University Art Galleries: Gift of Dr. Alfred T. Collette

Grace Hartigan and Poets

Grace Hartigan (b. 1922)
Black Crows (Oranges No. 1), 1958
Oil on paper
45 x 35 in.
University at Buffalo Art Galleries: Gift of the David K. Anderson Family, 2000.

Grace Hartigan recently provided the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University Library with this personal account of her collaboration with Frank O'Hara on the Oranges series:

To the New York avant-garde in the late 40s and early 50s, fame or historical significance seemed impossible. As a result, the collaborations between painters and poets were casual and spontaneous.
For example, one day in 1952, Frank O'Hara and I were talking about Apollinaire and his relationship to the Cubists. I said, "I'd like to do something with your poems, but I don't want to do only one." Frank said, "How about twelve? I have a dozen poems called 'Oranges.'?" I painted twelve oils on paper, at times writing the whole poem, other times just a line or two. All the images related to each poem.

This turned out to be crucial for my own painting. I had been working in what came to be called Abstract Expressionism. Inspired by Frank's combination of "high" art and popular culture, I began painting images from my Lower East Side neighborhood. Grand Street Brides was based on Goya's Royal Family and used gowns from a bridal shop on Grand Street.

My dealer, John Myers, director of the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, had worked for View, the Surrealist magazine, and he issued some small pamphlets of O'Hara's and Ashbery's poetry. He planned to show my Oranges in my 1953 show and have mimeographed copies of the poems available.

He suggested we put a dozen or two in folders and that I could paint a cover on each. I spread these folders on my studio floor and painted still lifes of oranges, each different, on the folder fronts. We priced them at $1.00 and sold very few. Elaine and Bill de Kooning each bought one.

Looking back at that time, it seems so magical, so innocent. In the words of a popular song, "It was a good time, it was the best time, and we thought it would last forever.

Grace Hartigan (b. 1922)
The Hero Leaves the Ship, 1960
Lithograph on paper
19 x 13 in. (unframed)
University at Buffalo Art Galleries: Promised Gift of the David K. Anderson Family

Grace Hartigan made these comments on her first lithographic prints:

In 1959 I was living at 25 Essex Street in New York's Lower East Side. Tatyana Grossman [sic] called me and asked if I would do some lithographs for ULAE [Universal Limited Art Editions]. I had never done lithos and knew nothing about it and she said she would bring me some stones. She came to my studio with Maurice, her husband and Bob Blackburn and left four stones with tusche, litho crayons and distilled water.

I was working with poets at the time, and after a week stalking the stones, I plunged in with splatters of tusche, free drawing, rubbing, pounding with hands and with rags and did four lithos based on Barbara Guest's poem "The Hero Leaves His Ship."

I called Tatyana and she came with Bob B, took a look at the stones and sort of gasped and moaned, at the same time. Bob said "If it's on the stone I can print it."

Grace Hartigan (b. 1922)
Who Will Accept Our Offering at This End of Autumn, 1966
Lithograph on paper
14 x 18 in. (unframed)
University at Buffalo Art Galleries: Promised Gift of the David K. Anderson Family

In February 1960, poet Barbara Guest and Grace Hartigan began collaboration on a series of poems and lithographs entitled Archaics. In October 1961, Guest wrote of her deep artistic connection to Hartigan's work:

I feel your painting so acutely that often when I write a poem I begin to see it as you would paint it....How well you understood the poems. I did use "nature" midway in space between myself and life. I do think of nature pantheistically, almost as the remote God who conjoins with my own remoteness and it all moves mysteriously and must be lightly touched-unless, the great unless, if, one wishes to "enter" it, the enormous step that must be taken. This step appears before me now.

Hartigan's lithographs were printed at Tatyana Grosman's Universal Limited Art Editions in West Islip, Long Island, but not until 1966. Barbara Guest remarked upon this delay in a letter of 28 November 1966:

It's very good news about the Grossman [sic] project....I am very eager to see the work you have done. It is all such a long far off time ago. Really archaic in my head.

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Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Library
Syracuse, NY 13244
Last modified: June 09, 2012 12:35 PM
URL: http://libwww.syr.edu /digital/exhibits/i/imagine/section8.htm