Collection inventory

Special Collections home page

Grace Hartigan Papers

An inventory of her papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: JMC/MRR
Date: April 2006

Biographical History

Grace Hartigan (1922-2008) was an American painter and art educator, and a significant member of the Abstract Expressionist School of art which emerged in New York City in the 1950s. Her circle of friends included Jackson Pollock, Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Frank O'Hara, and many other luminaries of the artistic and literary scene. Her paintings are held by numerous major galleries and museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Grace Hartigan was born in Newark, New Jersey on March 28, 1922. During a bout of pneumonia at age 6, she taught herself to read and draw, although she did not take formal art lessons until she was nearly twenty. In 1941, she moved to Los Angeles, where she took her first drawing classes. In 1942 she returned to the East coast where she worked as a draftsman in a war plant, and studied with painter Isaac Lane Muse.

Hartigan moved to New York City in 1945. There she became acquainted with several important artists, many of whom remained lifelong friends and artistic allies, including Milton Avery, Adolph Gottlieb, and Mark Rothko. In 1948 she was deeply impressed by an exhibit of Jackson Pollock's work and met both Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Hartigan and her husband at the time, artist Harry Jackson, spent most of 1949 painting in Mexico. Hartigan returned to New York City in 1950, and after exhibiting in several small avant-garde shows her work was selected by Clement Greenberg for the Koontz Gallery's "Meyer Schapiro New Talent" Exhibit. In 1951 and 1952 Hartigan had her first two solo exhibits, both at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery, a new gallery run by John Bernard Myers. In 1953, at her third show at Tibor de Nagy, the Museum of Modern Art purchased her painting Persian Jacket.

Like other painters of the so-called "New York School", Hartigan was closely associated -- both personally and professionally -- with several outstanding poets of the time such as Barbara Guest, James Schuyler and Frank O'Hara. She incorporated the text of O'Hara's poems "Oranges" into a series of twelve paintings, also titled "Oranges," in 1953. Later in her career, she created prints based on work by James Schuyler and Barbara Guest. In 1959 she participated in several international exhibitions including "Twelve Americans," "Art in Embassies," and "New American Painting," and was featured in a Life magazine essay.

In the early 1960s, following a move to the Baltimore, Maryland area with husband Winston Price, she invented a new medium, watercolor collage, using washes to create form, then tearing and reassembling the pieces. She also began teaching painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art's Hoffberger School of Painting, and in 1965 was appointed its director. In that capacity, she influenced students from all over the world. In 1969 Price's health began a slow decline, due to illness resulting from a self-administered experimental vaccine; he finally died in 1981. For this and other reasons the 1970s proved emotionally trying for Hartigan, as reflected in her work from this period.

In the early 1980s, Hartigan focused on heroines as her subject matter. She created a series of paper dolls based on 1930s movie stars and did a series of "Great Queens and Empresses" including Empress Theodora of Byzantium, Elizabeth I of England, Empress Josephine of France, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She had a solo exhibition at ACA Galleries in New York City in 1992 and her work was included in the Whitney Museum's exhibit "Hand Painted Pop" in 1993.

Hartigan was the subject of a major monograph, Grace Hartigan: A Painter's World, by art historian Robert Mattison, as well as two important exhibit guides, Grace Hartigan and the Poets, by Terrence Diggory and Painting Art History, by Sharon L. Hirsh. An edited selection of her diaries was published in 2009 by Syracuse University Press.

Hartigan was married four times: Robert Jachens (1941-1947), with whom she had a son Jeffrey (1942); Harry Jackson, a fellow painter (1949-1950); Robert Keene, a New York gallery owner (1959-1960); Winston Price, epidemiologist and Abstract Art collector (1960-1981).

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Spanning 1942 to 2006, the Grace Hartigan Papers comprises correspondence, writings and memorabilia of the abstract expressionist painter (b. 1922). While documenting Hartigan's career as a painter and as a teacher at Maryland Institute College of Art, the collection also illuminates the New York City literature and art scene, particularly of the 1950s.

Arranged alphabetically, the Correspondence-Subject Files (Boxes 1-31) contains incoming letters and drafts of some outgoing letters, original art from fellow artists and students, and Hartigan's notes on a variety of people and subjects. Correspondents whose letters are of greatest depth and duration include Sally Lindsay Bos, Fay Chandler, Mary Abbott Clyde, Terence Diggory (author of a study on Hartigan and the New York school of poets), Helen Frankenthaler and Robert Motherwell, Gertrude Kasle, Robert Mattison (author of a monograph on Hartigan), Beatrice Perry, Rex Stevens (Hartigan's studio assistant for many years), and Maynatalie Tabak. There is substantial correspondence with the galleries that handled Hartigan's work through the years both in the U.S. (ACA Galleries, Gres Gallery, Grimaldis, Gruenebaum Gallery, Kouros Gallery, Martha Jackson Galleries, Julian Weissman Fine Arts, Tibor de Nagy), and abroad (Galleria Schneider). There is also significant material relating to Hartigan's many years as a teacher at the Hoffberger School of the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland.

Material on Frank O'Hara is scattered throughout the collection and includes letters (Frank O'Hara, Joseph Le Seuer), monograph notes (Terence Diggory) and lecture notes (Daniel McGuinness).

Hartigan's other correspondents include artists (Lawrence Bahrych, Robert Blackburn, Leonard Bocour, Paul Brach and Miram Schapiro, Salvatore Federico, Tatyana Grosman, Jasper Johns, Ed Kerns, Alfred Leslie, Ryozo Morishita, John Raimondi, Larry Rivers, John Salt, Joan Stolz), poets (Douglas Crase, Barbara Guest, Ted Joans, Roger Kamenetz, Frank O'Hara), and writers (Patricia Albers, Lawrence Campbell, Martha Crow, Waldemar Hansen, Wendy Jeffers, Leslie King-Hammond, John and Marion Somers), as well as composer John Cage and photographer Walter Silver.

Organizational correspondence includes that of educational institutions (Brandeis University, Brooklyn College, Kent State University, Loyola Marymount, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, University of Maryland); museums (Baltimore Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, Whitney Museum, Neuberger Museum, Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art [Washington, D.C.], Smithsonian Museum); galleries (Allene Lapides Gallery, Anita Shapolsky Gallery, The Brata Gallery, David Anderson Gallery); publishers (Ballantine Books, Doubleday, Hudson Hills Press, St. James Press); charitable institutions and foundations (Ford Foundation, Joan Mitchell Foundation, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation); and various professional or art-related organizations (Artists Equity Association, College Art Association of America, Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art.)

Writings (Box 32) includes autobiographical material (typed journal excerpts, copies of items excerpted from the Correspondence-Subject files, and material Hartigan prepared for publication), addresses and remarks, and other. Memorabilia (Boxes 32-43) includes biographical material (prepared by others), a calendar from 1950 with annotations, recipes, financial material (receipts), lists of Hartigan's paintings prepared for various purposes, medical information, and photographs. Photographs (Boxes 39-43) includes prints, negatives and transparencies of Hartigan's artwork and studio, artwork by others, and personal photographs. Many of the photographs, together with negatives and proof sheets, were taken by noted photographer Walter Silver, including candid shots and portraits of Hartigan's friends and associates in New York City during the 1950s.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is subdivided into family and general; within that, material is arranged alphabetically. Writings and Memorabilia are arranged alphabetically by title or type.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

A number of items - consisting mostly of exhibit catalogs - have been removed from the collection and cataloged as part of the Rare Books Collection. Please search our regular online catalog using "hartigan, grace" as the keyword to find these items.

Subject Headings


Bahrych, Lawrence.
Bing, Alexander.
Blackburn, Robert Hamilton, 1920-2003.
Block, Corliss.
Bocour, Leonard, 1910-1993.
Bos, Sally Lindsay.
Buckwalter, Sue.
Budd, David.
Bush, Martin.
Cage, John.
Cheon, Mina.
Clyde, Mary Abbot.
Connor, Colin.
Correa, Federico, 1945-
De Kooning, Elaine.
De Kooning, Willem, 1904-1997.
De Nagy, Tibor.
Dennis, Emily.
Evans, Mary Page.
Folger, Dotty.
Frankenthaler, Helen, 1928-2011.
Grosman, Tatyana, 1904-1982.
Guest, Barbara.
Guggenheim, Peggy, 1898-1979.
Guston, Philip, 1913-1980.
Hansen, Waldemar.
Hartigan, Grace.
Hofmann, Hans, 1880-1966.
Jeffers, Wendy.
Joans, Ted.
Johns, Jasper, 1930-
Leslie, Alfred, 1927-
Lurie, Sheldon.
Maggio, John.
Marino, Louise.
Matter, Mercedes, 1913-2001.
Mattison, Robert Saltonstall.
Michener, James A. (James Albert), 1907-1997.
Mikulski, Barbara.
Mitchell, Joan, 1926-1992.
Mondale, Walter F., 1928-
Morishita, Ryozo.
Motherwell, Robert.
Myers, John Bernard.
O'Hara, Frank, 1926-1966.
Perry, Beatrice.
Perry, Hart Jr.
Porter, Fairfield.
Raimondi, John, 1948-
Rivers, Larry, 1925-2002.
Saler, Karen.
Schapiro, Miriam, 1923-2015.
Schuyler, James.
Schweitzer, Albert (artist)
Silver, Walter.
Soby, James Thrall, 1906-1979.
Spaventa, George, 1918-
Steinberg, Saul.
Stevens, Rex.
Stiles, George.
Stolz, Joan.
Tabak, May Natalie.
Vecchi, Floriano.
Waters, John.
Weissman, Julian.

Corporate Bodies

ACA Galleries.
Baltimore Museum of Art.
Cranbrook Academy of Art.
Grimaldis Gallery.
Gruenebaum Gallery (New York, N.Y.)
Martha Jackson Gallery.
Maryland Institute, College of Art.
Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.)
Museum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.
Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
Yaddo (Artists' colony)


Abstract expressionism -- United States.
Art, American -- 20th century.
Painters -- United States.
Painting, American -- 20th century.
Women artists -- United States.
Women painters -- United States.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)
Drawings (visual works)
Exhibition catalogs.
Video recordings (physical artifacts)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Grace Hartigan Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Majority of collection, gift of Grace Hartigan, 1969, 2004; Some correspondence, gift of Fay Chandler, 2007; Some correspondence and photographs, gift of George Silver, 2009.

Table of Contents


Correspondence-subject files