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Alice Trumbull Mason papers, 1921-1977

Biographical Note

Alice Trumbull Mason was born in 1904 in Litchfield, Connecticut. Her mother, Anne Leavenworth Train, was an accomplished artist before she met Alice's father, William Trumbull, a descendent of the Revolutionary War era painter, John Trumbull. Alice spent much of her childhood in Europe with her family. From 1921 to 1922 they lived in Florence and Rome where she studied at the British Academy. In 1923 she continued her studies with painter Charles W. Hawthorne at the National Academy of Design in New York and from 1927 to 1928 attended courses at the Grand Central Art Galleries taught by Arshile Gorky. Gorky inspired her interest in abstract painting, and Mason painted her first non-objective works in 1929. In 1928 she returned to Italy and Greece and was greatly influenced by ancient art, Byzantium, and Italian primitives. She married Warwood Mason, a merchant seaman, in 1930 and her daughter Emily was born in 1932 and her son Jonathan in 1933. During this period she stopped painting and devoted her creative energy to writing poetry inspired by American avant-garde writers.
Mason began painting again in 1934 and was recognized as a key figure of American abstraction. In 1935 she met and became close friends with fellow artist Ibram Lassaw, and they, along with several other artists, began to meet on a regular basis which led to the first American Abstract Artists group exhibition in 1937. Mason remained very active in the group and served as treasurer in 1939, secretary from 1940 to 1945, and president from 1959 to 1963. She was also an activist for abstract art, protesting the decisions of the Museum of Modern Art several times for excluding abstract artists from exhibitions. During the 1940s her paintings and concept of "architectural abstraction" was influenced by the arrival of Piet Mondrian in New York. Also in the 1940s she had two one-woman shows, but throughout her career she felt there was a bias against women in the New York art world and most often she participated in AAA group shows. Her work would be viewed as an important bridge for future abstract and conceptualist artists. In 1958 her son died, and though she continued to paint and participate in exhibitions, she never recovered from this tragedy and in the late 1960s withdrew into seclusion until her death in 1971.