Skip to main content

Eleanor Munro papers, circa 1880-2011, bulk 1950-2011

Biographical Note

Eleanor Munro (1928- ) is a writer and art critic working in New York City and Truro, Massachusetts. She is best known for her groundbreaking work Originals: American Women Artists (1979), one of the first books to argue for the importance of women artists who were generally ignored by the art world. Munro was active in feminist art circles in New York.
Munro's father, Thomas Munro, was an art educator and modernist intellectual. Her mother, Lucile Nadler, was a pianist. She grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, after her father accepted a joint appointment at the Cleveland Museum of Art and Western Reserve University. Munro graduated from Smith College majoring in art history and earned a master's degree in comparative literature from Columbia. She was married to Alfred Frankfurter, editor of ArtNews, from 1955 until his death in 1965. Munro remarried to the writer E. J. Kahn until his death in 1994.
While working on Originals, Munro interviewed forty women artists including Georgia O'Keeffe, Louise Bourgeois, Jennifer Bartlett, Helen Frankenthaler, and Louise Nevelson. Her thesis sought to highlight the relationship between biography and the content of an artist's work. The book serves as an illustration of Munro's idea that the "narrative memory" these artists had constructed for themselves was an important "generative source" of their creativity. Women artists continued to be a prominent interest of Munro's throughout her life.
Munro is also the author of On Glory Roads: a Pilgrim's Book about Pilgrimage (1987), Memoir of a Modernist's Daughter (1988), and other books. In 1988, Munro received the Cleveland Arts Prize for Literature.