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Networks of Abstraction: Postwar Printmaking and Women Artists of Atelier 17
Between the fall of 1951 and spring of 1952, Alice Trumbull Mason (1904–1971) independently coordinated a traveling show of abstract etchings she produced in the mid-1940s at Atelier 17, the avant-garde printmaking workshop located in New York City between 1940 and 1955 (fig. 1). Mason sent unsolicited letters to university galleries and regional art centers describing her show, comprised of nineteen etchings featuring biomorphic shapes, soft-ground textures, and embossed surfaces, such as Interference of Closed Forms (fig. 2).1 To justify her credentials to these unknown correspondents, Mason cited awards from annuals at the Philadelphia Print Club (1946) and the Society of American Graphic Artists (1948) and listed major institutions which owned her prints like the Brooklyn Museum of Art (BKM), Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Library of Congress (LOC), and New York Public Library (NYPL). Ultimately, Mason's plan worked. After confirming the first venue at the University of Wyoming, then a major hub for modernist art education, she booked five other locations for the show (fig. 3).
Engaging with recent interest in how American art traveled internationally, this essay will consider the movement of women's Atelier 17 prints and the positive impact of these exhibitions on women's career success.6 Drawing on analysis of primary material visualized in charts and on interactive maps produced with Viewshare, an online platform developed by the Library of Congress, this article establishes who and where the major hubs of activity were within this network and what facilitated connections among these nodes.7 Following the travels of six artists—Minna Citron (1896–1991), Worden Day (1912–1986), Sue Fuller (1914–2006), Jan Gelb (1906–1978), Alice Trumbull Mason, and Anne Ryan (1889–1954)—the discussion will center on several aspects of prints' circulation: peer-to-peer relationships, printmaking annuals, traveling exhibitions, museum collecting, and artists' groups that supported avant-garde printmaking.
This analysis will suggest that two factors primarily contribute to why making prints at Atelier 17 served as a breakthrough for women artists' careers. First, prints are highly mobile—nothing more than lightweight, thin sheets of paper. Multiple impressions of the same edition could be sent to venues across America and the world, allowing women's prints to be shown in several places simultaneously. Second, women were highly motivated to develop a dynamic artistic network through their activities as printmakers. Mason's experiences as a painter were not isolated; there was little market or critical support for women artists' paintings and sculptures. Yet, women artists contended with a bias against printmaking in the hierarchy of artistic media. Citron encapsulated challenges posed by being an artist who enjoyed printmaking: “Crossing the line back and forth between printmaking and painting is hard. You are so easily labeled a printmaker.”8
In spite of these challenges, women artists boldly pursued connections within the postwar printmaking network, fighting for chances to secure public exposure for their prints and to build relationships with key professional contacts. This article ultimately constructs a powerful narrative about this active but peripheral subgroup of the New York School.9 In doing so, it demonstrates the intrepidness and bravery of these women printmakers to share their graphic art with a global audience. It also reveals the significance of their prints in shaping postwar abstraction. These understudied women artists, whose prints traversed the globe evangelizing for unfettered modernist expression and American democracy, were at the vanguard of feminist activity within the art world that exploded two decades later.
The Explosion of Postwar Printmaking:
Although printmaking had a strong history in America coming into the twentieth century, several events combined around the mid-1940s to initiate a groundswell of support for modern printmaking. 1947–48 mark watershed years, after which avant-garde printmakers found widespread acceptance for their graphic work in America and internationally. The decision of Stanley William Hayter (1901–1988), Atelier 17's founder, to relocate the studio to New York City in 1940 from its first home in Paris certainly paved the way for modern printmaking's growth in America. More importantly, MoMA's 1944 exhibition New Directions in Gravure: Hayter and Studio 17 confirmed the workshop's status as a central hub of abstract printmaking. Atelier 17 became known as the foremostplace worldwide to learn experimental printmaking, and the number of artists training there increased substantially.
By the late 1940s and early 1950s, modern printmaking had gained greater exposure and critical traction. Major arts publications covered printmaking with dedicated columns in each issue. Art News featured Irvin Haas's “The Print Collector” from roughly 1946 to 1957, and Art Digest had many columns appearing intermittently from the late-1940s into the 1950s.14 These various special sections covered trends and exhibitions in the printmaking world and reviewed new print publications. Even though these magazines sometimes covered print news within the 57th Street gallery reviews, the print sections effectively segregated avant-garde graphic arts from mainstream modernism.
Seizing on the opportunities that this explosion of postwar printmaking offered, women artists capitalized on prints' portability by sending their graphic work throughout the United States. Although the scale of prints definitely increased from standard sizes seen in the early-twentieth century, artists realized that prints were still far more transportable compared to the large paintings and sculptures of the New York School.15 Gelb's husband Boris Margo (1902–1995) confirmed the belief that printmaking was a better instrument for spreading postwar abstraction, writing, “costing less, framed less formidably, more easily transported by rootless moderns, the print can serve as a most persuasive introduction to modern art.”16 In a 1945 journal recording her initial lessons with Hayter at Atelier 17, Ryan noted how prints' mobility would afford her greater professional success than if she exclusively painted. She wrote, “it is easier to succeed in prints than painting for the simple reason that prints can be mailed.”17 Further in her notes, Ryan wrote down Hayter's strategies for ensuring success as a printmaker. He prioritized publicizing instead of production, suggesting “about one third of time is given to making of the prints and two thirds to marketing and mailing, seeing dealers, etc.” Ryan noted a final suggestion about the importance of making a substantial body of prints in order to solidify a foundation for commercial success: “Reach the goal of 50 good prints then you will begin to sell.” Clearly, printmaking served as a way for Ryan, formerly a housewife, mother and poet, to gain a toehold in the art world, earn a livelihood, and build a critical reputation that eventually led to her success as a collagist (fig. 5).18
There was precedent in American history for using printmaking as a vehicle for disseminating art to the general public. In the period immediately before Atelier 17's establishment in New York, two mail-order companies sold Regionalist-style prints directly to middle-class American consumers. Reeves Lewenthal started Associated American Artists in 1934, which marketed signed and numbered prints for $5 each. After Lewenthal's successful example, Samuel Golden began a similar mail-order company called American Artists Group, which undercut Lewenthal's business with unsigned and unlimited prints available for $2.50. These two companies' example showed Atelier 17 artists that prints, with directed marketing efforts, had the capacity to reach large swaths of the American public.19
The Collegiality and Reciprocity of Peer-to-Peer Networking:
Women artists actively facilitated geographical exchange of their prints in their effort to self-promote and form relationships with others. Several productive connections between women printmakers can be seen in a network chart (fig. 4). Radiating out from Atelier 17, artists connect with one another either directly through peer-to-peer exchange or indirectly via important nodes. Artists like Ryan, Day, Fuller, Mason, Citron, and Gelb are clearly hubs and facilitated the flow of creativity within this system. Hayter served as a chief exemplar for women artists of how to enlarge their sphere of influence. According to Helen Phillips (1913–1995), Hayter's second wife and an active printmaker at Atelier 17, Hayter made himself available for lectures and demonstrations—which often had accompanying exhibitions of his prints—and these activities, “spread his reputation throughout the U.S. as a teacher.”20
Beyond these two women, several artists developed intimate relationships at Atelier 17 with other female printmakers that led to important professional achievements. Louise Nevelson (1899–1988) and Dorothy Dehner (1901–1994) began a lifelong friendship after Dehner admired proofs of Nevelson's large and expressively inked etchings hanging on the walls of Atelier 17.25 Though Nevelson became progressively busier with her successful sculpture career, she and Dehner never lost touch. While working as a fellow at the Los Angeles-based Tamarind Lithography Workshop in 1963, Nevelson wrote Dehner a postcard suggesting she also make prints there and likely suggested her name to Tamarind's founder, June Wayne.26 Dehner also maintained a strong friendship with Doris Seidler (1912–2010), a British expatriate who worked at Atelier 17 after the conclusion of World War II. Many years after their time at Atelier 17, Seidler suggested that she and Dehner share a two-person exhibition at the Print Centre in London and said she would sponsor Dehner's membership to SAGA.27
Through Berea College in Kentucky, Day and Ryan both connect with Margaret Balzer Cantieni (1914–2002), who taught art at the school from 1937–45.28 At some point during her travels, Day met Balzer Cantieni at Berea and likely influenced her to study at Atelier 17, which she did in 1946.29 Ryan showed woodcuts at Berea in October–November 1947 because Balzer Cantieni brought Dorothy Tredennick, member of the school's Art Department, to see Ryan's work at her apartment on Greenwich Street.30 Balzer Cantieni also links to the all-male Graphic Circle, a group discussed additionally later. In March 1949, Jacques Seligmann gallery lent an exhibition of the Graphic Circle to the art gallery of Lehigh University library; as a local artist—she and her husband had moved by this point to the Lehigh Valley to teach art at various institutions—Balzer Cantieni showed one of her abstract prints alongside members of this esteemed vanguard group.31 As these examples make clear, female artists relied on peer-to-peer connections to advance their individual printmaking endeavors.
The Transformative Effect and Geographic Circulation of Print Annuals and Museum Shows:
Print annuals are one of the clearest examples of how women artists energetically networked and harnessed prints' transportable properties. Showing at these venues—and many others when the annuals traveled—enabled them to gain exposure and a base of critical support at a time when women did not have equal access to exhibition opportunities for their painting or sculpture. Louise Bourgeois (1911–2010), who began working at Atelier 17 in 1946, underscored the catalyzing importance of participating in these annual print shows: “I was able to enter the art field through the prints, because the Brooklyn Museum organized this show of prints every year. So it was an easy beginning, to have your name printed...I did it for exposure.”32 The selection process could be quite competitive, and women had every reason to be quite proud of gaining entry.33 Through participation in the print annuals, women not only had their names printed in the exhibition catalogues, as Bourgeois noted, but also their names and illustrations of their artwork often appeared in the art press, especially as winners of awards and purchase prizes.
As the artist-run SAGA developed a more modern identity in the 1940s, women artists from Atelier 17 increasingly showed in its annual exhibitions. Few women exhibited in the early 1940s, since “modern” printmaking did not make inroads into this “academic” institution until about mid-decade.36 Hayter first showed with SAGA in 1942—“[overtipping] the aesthetic apple cart,” as Fuller recalled—which opened the door for modern printmakers.37 Shortly thereafter, women artists from Atelier 17 began submitting their abstract and stylistically progressive prints to SAGA's annual shows in greater numbers, with participation peaking in the years 1946, 1947, and 1948 (fig. 10). In Fuller's first years showing in SAGA annuals, she entered more conservative, semi-representational prints of animals and human figures such as Cock (fig. 11). In this profile view of a rooster in motion, Fuller contrasts pieces of lace, inherited from her mother and impressed onto an etching plate prepared with soft ground, with bold calligraphic lines that emphasize the head, neck, beak, legs, and tail of the bird (fig 12). By 1948, Fuller showed The Sorceress (fig. 13), one of her fully abstract “string compositions.” Frustrated by the limitations of stretching prefabricated lace and materials to her desired specifications, Fuller cut up lace and stripped fabric to its lowest component—thread—to make abstract compositions like The Sorceress.
Even though SAGA had a more traditional reputation, Atelier 17 artists recognized the annual's importance for increasing their professional visibility. Fuller urged Hayter to join SAGA because of the networking potential: “I felt that if he would establish a rapport with the opposition that he would enlarge his field of circulation.”38 Like the BKM annuals, exhibiting with SAGA came with the possibility of recognition in the art press and interaction with curators and gallerists. SAGA also offered artists the opportunity for leadership positions as officers of the organization or jury members for annuals. The latter proved quite influential, as Hayter, Fuller, and Citron sat on the 1946 jury that initiated several years of strong showings by Atelier 17 members.39 Karl Kup, curator of prints at the NYPL, recalled that at the 1946 SAGA annual, “an astonishing array of contemporary work adorned the wall, with almost every ‘school of thought' represented. [Citron, Fuller and Hayter] had been on the jury of admission, with results that may have shocked some of the more academic members.”40
The Philadelphia Print Club (PPC) was also a significant venue for women artists from Atelier 17. Founded in 1914, the PPC's Board had conservative tastes in its early years but opened to modern printmaking when Berthe Von Moschzisker (1915–2002) became the Director in 1944 and decided “to show contemporary things.”41 After Hayter won the club's prestigious Charles M. Lea prize in 1944, Von Moschzisker invited him to have a solo show at the PPC and teach a once-a-month class for local artists nicknamed the “Hayter Workshop.”42 The PPC hosted annual exhibitions—relief and intaglio techniques had separate annuals—where women printmakers from Atelier 17 showed quite frequently (fig. 10).43 The etching annual's highest honor, the Charles M. Lea prize, was a particularly valuable award not only because the art press featured the winners but also because the PPC donated the award prints to the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA).44 In addition to annual prizes, the PPC began a member-supported fund in 1942 to purchase prints from PPC annuals for the PMA's permanent collection.45 When Mason's Interference of Closed Forms (fig. 2) won the Charles M. Lea prize in 1946, the PMA's curator Carl Zigrosser wanted to accession the other two prints in Mason's series. Lacking museum acquisition funds, Zigrosser asked the PPC to sponsor the purchase of Labyrinth of Closed Forms and Orientation of Closed Forms (both 1945).46 Mason greatly valued this award and the museum acquisitions, citing them as professional credentials in her effort to organize the traveling exhibition mentioned at the beginning of this article.
Citron actively participated in annuals with the Boston Printmakers (BP), winning honorable mention for Whatever (1945), her first, very small foray into abstraction (fig. 14 and 15). Working at Atelier 17's avant-garde studio was a major inspiration for Citron, encouraging her to switch from her witty social realist style to abstraction. The BP award had immediate ramifications for Citron's career and style, in that it gave her the confidence to move beyond the cautious, black-and-white miniature of Whatever toward larger toward full-color abstractions.47 Citron's Flight to Tomorrow (fig. 16), which became the BP's Presentation Print for 1950, showcases an inventive abstract composition and her technical masterwork. Her superb handling of the engraver's burin, shown in the composition's curved and straight lines, is complemented by her printing virtuosity, seen in the three colors—purple, light and dark blue—she stenciled on the plate's planar surface.
Several museums coordinated special exhibitions that traveled quite widely, allowing women to promote their reputations nationally and internationally as modern printmakers. After its run at MoMA, Hayter and Studio 17—which included prints by Fuller, Ryan, Perle Fine (1908–1988), Helen Phillips, and Catherine Yarrow (1904–1990)—traveled for two years to venues throughout the United States.50 Concurrently, MoMA shipped a version of the show to the Inter-American Office of the National Gallery of Art, which circulated to cities in Latin America between 1944 and 1946.51 In 1953–54, Day, Fuller, and Ryan had prints sent to the Municipal Museum of the Hague (Gemeentemuseum Den Haag) and the Kunsthaus in Zurich as part of the BKM's exhibition, New Expressions in Printmaking (1952), a state of the field for midcentury American printmaking.52 Several women artists from Atelier 17 participated in a traveling exhibition coordinated by the Boston Public Library (BPL) that first went to the Petit Palais in Paris in 1949, then the American Embassy in Paris, and many cities in France, Germany, and Italy over several years (fig. 18).53 The artists involved in the BPL show later donated their prints to museums in Israel.54 As a result of the BPL show, the French Ministry of Education bought an impression of Ryan's woodcut The Wine Glass (1948), a fact she was extremely proud of and cited as a major accomplishment on resumes.55 Exhibition possibilities clearly blossomed in the wake of World War II, greatly enhancing the network for global printmaking exchange and raising women's international profiles as avant-garde printmakers.
While promoting these women's reputations, the circulation of prints worldwide also carried a Cold War message of spreading democratic ideals. Several governmental agencies were involved in promoting networks of democratic exchange through printmaking. In addition to the Inter-American Office, the United States Information Agency (USIA), established in 1953 with the goal of fostering dialogue between the United States and the world, built a huge collection of more than 1,600 prints to circulate within American embassies, a precursor to the current Art in the Embassies program.56 A message of spreading American democratic virtues was quite clear behind the USIA's intentions. In the words of the USIA's director Leonard Marks, “through this program we are attempting to make known abroad the creative vigor and originality of contemporary American graphic art. In many locations where the prints are hung there is no other way by which the public could learn about this aspect of our culture.”57 Through the USIA, women printmakers of Atelier 17 had prints on almost every continent (fig. 19).58 One of Mason's etchings, Deep Sound (fig. 20), in which sinuously arranged lace contrasts with two strongly bitten horizontal lines, was on view at the American embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.59
Joining artists' groups centered on modern printmaking was another important avenue for women artists to publicize their Atelier 17 prints. First and foremost, these printmaking groups provided women with the chance to exhibit their prints publicly in major galleries and museum spaces. Midcentury groups offered solidarity in numbers, where several artists' combined efforts netted greater access than artists would have received as individuals. The initial entrée through printmaking groups sometimes marked the beginning of long-term relations between women and prestigious galleries. As with print annuals and governmental organizations, exhibitions of these midcentury printmaking groups made the rounds of venues in the United States and abroad. Another major benefit of these artists' groups was their networking potential, creating vibrant forums for artists to socialize and exchange ideas about printmaking. Lastly, by either founding or helping with the management of these printmaking groups, women artists were able to express leadership skills outside of the domestic realm, which went against the period's conservative gender norms. Female printmakers realized that, if they did not take charge and organize their own groups, they would not have many options for exhibiting their avant-garde prints.
Atelier 17's Decisive Impact on Women's Careers:
The decision to work at Atelier 17 represents women artists' primary affiliation with a collegial group of printmakers. Besides the obvious benefits of learning from Hayter and other artists in the informal workshop environment, Atelier 17 artists exhibited together annually at major galleries.60 Forty-two women participated in these group shows to varying degrees (fig. 21). While the artists at the center of this article had some of the highest participation levels, just under half exhibited only once with Atelier 17, sometimes marking one of the only remaining records of the artist's careers.
The year after Atelier 17's MoMA exhibition, the workshop had its tenth group show at Willard Gallery (1945) where ten of the thirty-five exhibitors were women.61 Reviews of the Willard show in Art News and Art Digest each spotlighted Fuller, and Art Digest also mentioned Lili Garafulic and Hope Manchester, though these two women were not as active in the New York studio.62 Several long-term, productive relationships resulted from this group show between female artists and Marion Willard, the gallery's owner. Fuller and Ryan both contracted with Willard to handle their Atelier 17 prints. Ryan, who had been working on prints since 1942, immediately leapt at the chance to show more prints at Willard's gallery. Atelier 17's show was in late spring 1945, and Willard requested that Ryan send additional prints by the following October.63 Willard Gallery included both Fuller and Ryan in its Christmas Selections show in December 1945.64 Fuller, who was perpetually seeking to expand her network, remembered that Willard even employed an assistant to travel around the country selling Fuller's and other artists' prints.65
Atelier 17's twelfth group exhibition took place in London at the Leicester Galleries in March 1947. Hayter wrote an extensive intro text, in which he singled out the efforts of Pennerton West (1913–1965) and Sheri Martinelli (1918–1996) for their biting out technique.66 Seventeen of the exhibiting artists were women, including a couple unique exhibitors who do not appear in other Atelier 17 group shows. In addition to expanding Atelier 17's network to London, the show also circulated throughout England with the Arts Council.67
Two years later in 1949, an exhibition at the Laurel Gallery in New York City was the most significant opportunity for women printmakers to show with Atelier 17. The show was the studio's biggest, both in terms of number of artists exhibiting and the quality of the published material. Twenty-eight artists from the show were women, representing the largest simultaneous showing of female printmakers from the studio and reflecting the crest of activity in postwar printmaking. The Laurel exhibition generated buzz in the art press for these women, with Art News and Art Digest mentioning a more diverse group of participating Atelier 17 members.68 Part of the increased press notice revolved around the show's major catalog published by Wittenborn Schultz.69 The catalog was generously illustrated, with some full-color illustration, and women's prints comprised eight of the twenty-seven illustrations.70 The publisher's involvement secured greater distribution in the nation's art bookstores and institutional libraries and meant that, for the first time, Atelier 17's group exhibition reached a broader audience. Today, the catalogue is an important resource because it has detailed biographical information for participating artists. In short, the Laurel catalog made it a very important time for women artists to be members of Atelier 17. The studio had additional shows in New York City, but none ever reached the magnitude of the Laurel Gallery exhibition.71
14 Painter-Printmakers and Other Printmaking Groups
As the postwar printmaking revival gained steam in the late 1940s, women sought group affiliations outside of their Atelier 17 membership. Groups dedicated exclusively to avant-garde printmakers existed as early as 1945, but women did not play as dominant roles in them as they would by the 1950s. Vanguard, founded in 1945 by modernist architect Robert Vale Faro (1902–1988), counted Atelier 17 artists Hayter, Fuller, and Ryan as New York members and Francine Felsenthal (1922–2000) in Chicago.72 The BKM gave Vanguard a show in 1946, which subsequently toured to several other institutions in the United States.73 Jacques Seligmann Gallery supported several artists' groups in the late 1940s which followed the “so called ‘modern' idiom”—in the words of Theresa Parker, director of the gallery's Contemporary American Department—but scarcely any women were members. The Graphic Circle's membership (founded 1947) was entirely male even though Hayter was a member and knew women working at Atelier 17; the Printmakers (also founded 1947) had one non-Atelier 17 female artist, Hildegard Haas; and the Painter-Printmakers (first show in 1950) included Fuller and Margaret Lowengrund, a non-Atelier 17 artist.74
The collective potential of this group for networking and circulating exhibitions became clear immediately. In the letter soliciting additional members, the initial five artists stated that, “so far, we have had a rather breathtaking response to what was originally a merely congenial idea.”79 14 Painter-Printmakers got off to a strong start with two major gallery exhibitions in New York City, first with Stable Gallery in 1953 and second with Kraushaar Galleries in 1954.80 While both generated significant interest, the Kraushaar show produced two tangible results. First, the AFA circulated an exhibition of the 14 Painter-Printmakers within the United States (fig. 23).81 Second, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MMA) accessioned a group of prints from the Kraushaar show.82 This purchase included Gelb's chromatic color print, Hyaline Pavane, one of her first abstractions after spending many years working in a surrealist and social realist style (fig. 24). Here, Gelb explored relief printing, seen in five spots of bright colored ink, which she probably achieved using cellocut, a technique her husband Boris Margo pioneered in the 1930s.
Because of both gallery shows, members of the 14 Painter-Printmakers became friendly with several important professional contacts. In late-November 1954, the group hosted a small party at Margo's studio—a photograph documents the convivial soiree (fig. 25)—to socialize with this professional network: John B. Turner, art patron who funded the MMA purchase, Hyatt Mayor (MMA), Una Johnson (BKM), Karl Kup (NYPL), Bill Lieberman (MoMA), AFA staff members Tom Kesser and Virginia Fields, and gallery directors Antoinette Kraushaar and Eleanor Ward of Stable Gallery.83 Citron, for one, made an important connection with Mayor, who credited her with changing the course of the MMA's collection priorities: “I would like to have been able to tell you...how much the MMA is beholden to you for all that you have done for us. Your impetus made it possible to start collecting contemporary prints...You are, I think, the only outstanding print-maker who profoundly shaped museum collecting.”84 Citron must have been delighted to receive this glowing compliment from such an esteemed figure in the museum community.
This group continued to have great success in disseminating members' graphic work throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. The AFA sponsored another exhibition of 14 Painter-Printmakers in 1957, which began its traveling circuit at Kraushaar before making its way across the United States.88 Gelb reached out to the American Embassy in Paris regarding having an exhibition of the group's work at its cultural center in 1959, which would later travel to the French provinces.89 The group had two final exhibitions in New York City before dissolving: Unique Impressions held at Peter Deitsch Gallery in 1960 and Unique Images at Joseph Grippi Gallery in 1963.90 Through its ten-year history, 14 Painter-Printmakers served as an important channel for championing the cause of avant-garde printmaking and making the names of its members better known within the broader postwar art world.
1) I would like to thank the staff of the Archives of American Art for facilitating my research in both the New York and Washington, DC offices. I am also very grateful to those who read and commented on drafts of this essay: Dr. Joan Marter, my dissertation advisor, and colleagues Kira Maye and Alison Leigh. The data analysis and Viewshare site would not have been possible without the assistance of my husband, Richard Lichtenstein. I presented an early synthesis of this paper at the Feminist Art History Conference at American University in November 2012 and a graduate student conference at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in February 2013.
See correspondence about the artist's traveling show on reel 629, grids 429–458 and reel 630, grid 517 in Alice Trumbull Mason papers, 1921–1977, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution [henceforth cited as ATM].
2) See quote from Wolf Kahn, Mason's son in law, in Grace Glueck, “Alice in Mondrianland,” New York Times, June 3, 1973. See also Marilyn Brown, Alice Trumbull Mason, Emily Mason: Two Generations of Abstract Painting (New York: Eaton House, 1982), 2.
3) Sidney Tillim, “What Happened to Geometry? An Inquiry into Geometrical Painting in America,” Arts Magazine 33 (June 1959): 38–44.
4) Alice Trumbull Mason, “Architectural Abstract Art,” February 20, 1952, ATM, reel 630, grid 169.
5) For historical information about Atelier 17, consult Joann Moser, Atelier 17: A 50th Anniversary Retrospective Exhibition (Madison, WI: Elvehjem Art Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1977). After the completion of this essay, the author discovered twenty-four additional women artists participated at Atelier 17. Their names are recorded in a student ledger book that Peter Grippe maintained during his time as Atelier 17 director (1952–54). See Allentown Art Museum, The Grippe Collection.
6) See Barbara S. Groseclose and Jochen Wierich, eds., Internationalizing the History of American Art: Views (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009); Jennifer L. Roberts, Transporting Visions: The Movement of Images in Early America (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014).
7) The author created a dataset of more than 1,700 entries for the Viewshare analysis and charts in this article. Sources included published exhibition catalogues and archival material from collections in the Archives of American Art, which are noted throughout this article's footnotes. As possible, citations have been recorded in the Viewshare data (see the “List” tab). The author realizes the dataset is by no means comprehensive.
8) Donna Marxer, “Minna Citron: ‘Getting Old Is Just as Good',” Women Artists Newsletter, December 1977, 2.
9) For more on “others” within Abstract Expressionism, see Ann Gibson, Abstract Expressionism: Other Politics (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).
10) Ten Brooklyn print exhibition occurred annually from 1947 to 1956, after which the frequency tapered off to approximately every two years. The twenty-sixth and last annual occurred in 2001, after a long gap between the twenty-fifth in 1989. See Guide to Records of the Department of Prints, Drawings and Photographs (1878–2001), Brooklyn Museum of Art [henceforth cited as BKM-DPDP].
11) Una Johnson, American Prints and Printmakers: A Chronicle of Over 400 Artists and Their Prints from 1900 to the Present (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1980), 119.
12) Several organizations held print annuals before the BKM: the National Academy of Design, The Library of Congress (established 1943), the Northwest Printmakers (1928), the Print Club of Philadelphia (1915), the Chicago Society of Etchers (1910), and Society of American Etchers (founded 1931 as Brooklyn Society of Etchers; see additional name permutations for this group within above paragraph).
13) Dorothy Noyes Arms, “Annual Prints from the Exhibition,” Print 6, no. 2 (1949): 20.
14)Art Digest columns were: “Printmakers: Old and Modern” (1947, staff writers), “The Field of Graphic Arts” (1949, Margaret Lowengrund), “Prints” (1951, Dore Ashton).
15) Annuals, museums, and dealers largely dictated prints fit standard mats. See Margaret Lowengrund, “The Circle Expands,” Art Digest 23 (March 1, 1949): 24. The BKM annuals exploded size restrictions; while the submission guidelines requested traditional mats up to 22x28 inches, they also allowed for submissions of any size.
16) Boris Margo, “The Ides of Art: 11 Graphic Artists Write,” Tiger's Eye, no. 8 (June 1949): 53.
17) Anne Ryan journal, 1944–45, reel 88, series 4, no. 18, (emphasis original), Anne Ryan papers, 1922–1968, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution [henceforth cited as ARP]. All Ryan's quotes from this paragraph come from this journal.
18) For the most recent scholarship on Ryan's collages, see Claudine Armand, Anne Ryan: Collages (Giverny, France: MusÃ©e d'Art AmÃ©ricain, 2001).
19) Neither firm successfully entered the abstract print market. By the 1950s, Lewenthal's attempt to break into modern prints was lampooned as mass culture and not fine art. In 1958, Lewenthal's AAA split in two with a high and low art division. Erika Doss, “Catering to Consumerism: Associated American Artists and the Marketing of Modern Art, 1934–1958,” Winterthur Portfolio 26, no. 2/3 (Summer–Autumn 1991): 166–67.
20) Helen Phillips, “1940's in US; A.17,” Helen Phillips papers, Paris. According to Phillips, lecturing was quite important to Hayter's financial stability: “Bills [sic] income came from print sales, exhibitions, his lecture demonstrations, and visiting teaching jobs,” rather than from running Atelier 17.
21) Day to Ryan, undated (ca. 1947), ARP, reel 88, grid 643.
22) Day to Ryan, July 26 (no year, ca. 1947), ARP, reel 87, grids 300–1.
23) Day to Ryan, July 26 (ca. 1947).
24) “Notebook on Colored Wood-Cuts, 1945,” ARP, reel 88, series 4, no. 20.
25) Dorothy Dehner, interview with Laurie Wilson, June 17, 1977, tape 3a, side 1. For more on Nevelson's Atelier 17 etchings, see my forthcoming essay in American Women Artists, 1935–1970: Gender, Culture, and Politics, Helen Langa and Paula Wisotzki, eds. (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, forthcoming/2015).
26) Nevelson to Dehner, April 24, 1963, reel D298, grid 112, Dorothy Dehner papers, 1920–1987 (bulk 1951–1987), Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution [henceforth cited as DD]. Though Tamarind extended a fellowship to Dehner in September 1963 (Susan Jonas to Dehner, DD, reel 298, grid 149), illness prevented her from taking it. She finally worked at Tamarind in late-1970 and early-1971.
27) Seidler to Dehner, November 6, 1963, DD, reel D298, grid 155.
28) Janice Carter Larson, Painting the Halls of Heaven: Life and Works of Margaret Balzer Cantieni (Bethlehem, PA: Payne Gallery of Moravian College, 2004).
29) In Day's July 26, 1947 letter to Ryan, she wrote: “I remember indirectly that there was a rather talented young artist who taught there awhile—Margaret Balzer by name—who is quite modern in her work.”
30) Dorothy Tredennick to Ryan, September 25, 1947, ARP, reel 86, grid 871.
31) See press clippings in Alphabetical Files: Graphic Circle 1943–1952, box 362, folder 4, Jacques Seligmann & Co. records, 1904–1978, bulk 1913–1974, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution [henceforth cited as GC at JS&Co].
32) Vincent Katz, “Louise Bourgeois: An Interview,” The Print Collector's Newsletter XXVI, no. 3 (August 1995): 88.
33) At the 1947 BKM annual, over 600 artists submitted approximately 1,300 prints, from which the jury selected only 210. “Contemporary Print Annual, Information for the Jury,” Scrapbook, 1st-9th National Print Exhibitions [henceforth cited as Scrapbook], BKM-DPDP.
34) Una Johnson accessioned about ninety additional prints outside of the annual exhibitions by women artists from Atelier 17.
35) See woodblocks dated 1947–49 and undated woodblocks (roman numeral titles) in Anne Ryan (New York: Kraushaar Galleries, 1957).
36) Citron showed representational prints at SAGA in 1940, February 1942, fall 1942, and 1943.
37) Sue Fuller, oral history interview with Paul Cummings, April 24, 1975, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
38) Fuller, oral history.
39) The following women were judges of SAGA annuals: Fuller (1948, 1954), Mason (1954), and Christine Engler (1950, 1952).
40) Karl Kup, “Notes Around the World: New York Commentary,” Print 5, no. 1 (1947): 65–66.
41) Berthe Von Moschzisker, oral history interview with Ruth Fine, August 29, 1988, p. 30, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. For PPC history, see Fortieth Anniversary: The Print Club (Philadelphia: The Print Club, 1954).
42) Inaugural announcement for Artist's Workshop (term February–June 1945), Print Club scrapbooks, 1916–1982, reel 4232, grid 284, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution [henceforth cited as PCS]. Hayter continued teaching at PPC until circa 1949.
43) Participation numbers are based on review of news clippings in PCS and an Excel chart provided by The Print Center, the successor to the PPC. There are no known catalogs from annuals from this era.
44) The PPC sporadically donated honorable mentions to the PMA.
45) Letter to PPC membership, January 25, 1942, PCS, reel 4232, grid 163. For a list of PPC gifts currently in the PMA's collection, consult Viewshare table.
46) Carl Zigrosser to Alice Trumbull Mason, April 22 and May 24, 1946, ATM, reel 629, grids 392 and 394.
47) Minna Citron, “In Deep Relief,” Artist's Proof 6, no. 9–10 (1966): 33.
48) Annemarie Henle to Una Johnson, December 1, 1947, Scrapbook, BKM-DPDP.
49) Annemarie Henle to Una Johnson, January 27, 1950, Scrapbook, BKM-DPDP.
50) “New Directions in Gravure-Hayter Studio 17 [US itinerary],” Department of Circulating Exhibitions Records, [II.220.127.116.11], The Museum of Modern Art Archives, New York [henceforth cited as DCER]. Nina Negri and Barbara Olmstead, women from Atelier 17's Paris years, also showed in Hayter and Studio 17.
51) An itinerary of the Latin American venues has not been located as of the publication date. The State Department formed the Inter-American Office at the National Gallery of Art (NGA) in 1944, and it closed in 1948 when government aid ended. See Margaret D. Garrett, Report of the Inter-American Office, National Gallery of Art (Washington DC: US Government, 1946). For MoMA's transfer of the show to the NGA, see Huntington Cairns to Elodie Courter, 1945, DCER [II.18.104.22.168].
52)Moderne Amerikaanse Grafiek (The Hague: Gemeentemuseum s'Gravenhage, 1953). No known catalog exists for the Kunsthaus show.
53) See Arthur W. Heintzelman, Contemporary American Prints; Organized for the Museums in Israel (Boston: Boston Public Library, 1953); ZeitgenÃ¶ssische Graphik Aus Den USA (Stuttgart: Office of Land Commissioner for WÃ¼rttemberg-Baden, 1949); Incisori Degli Stati Uniti (Calografia Nazionale, Rome, 195?). Catalogs from several of the French traveling venues can be found in ATM, reel 630, grids 489–90, 520, 649, 675–6.
54) Arthur Heintzelman to exhibitors, ATM, reel 629, grid 469.
55) “Last Record,” ARP, reel 88, series 10.
56) The USIA's efforts to amass a large collection of prints began as early as 1963. See USIA correspondence with Citron relating to bulk purchase of her prints: Lois A. Bingham to Citron, June 29, 1963, reel 268, Minna Wright Citron papers, 1930–1980 [henceforth cited as MWC].
57) Leonard H. Marks to Alice Trumbull Mason, April 9, 1968, ATM, reel 629, grid 795. See also, “The U.S.I.A. Print Program,” Art in America 56, no. 1 (February 1968): 66–69.
58) “United States Information Agency: Graphic Arts Program, List no. 2,” ATM, reel 629, grids 796–801.
59) A chapter in my dissertation looks at how women artists challenged associations of lace and textiles used in soft ground etching—seen in both Fuller's and Mason's work in this essay—with traditional women's craft.
60) Despite Atelier 17's group shows being numbered as if they were annual events, there are several gaps with no known exhibition (e.g., 1946, 1948, 1950).
61)Tenth Exhibition: Prints by 35 Members of the Atelier 17 Group (New York: Willard Gallery, 1945).
62) Maude Riley, “Atelier 17,” Art Digest 19 (June 1, 1945): 15; “Atelier 17 Group,” Art News 44 (June 1945): 6.
63) Betty Willis to Anne Ryan, ARP, reel 86, grid 804.
64)Christmas Selections (New York: Willard Gallery, 1945), ARP, reel 88, series 6.
65) Fuller, oral history.
66) Stanley William Hayter, Atelier 17: New Etchings and Engravings by Members of the Group (London: The Leicester Galleries, 1947), 9.
67) “Atelier 17 in London,” Art News 46 (May 1947): 10.
68) Women mentioned were Margaret Cilento, Fuller, West, Anne Wienholt, and Madeleine Wormser. See “Stanley William Hayter's Atelier 17 at Laurel,” Art News 48 (March 1949): 45; “Prints by Members of Atelier 17 at the Laurel Gallery,” Art Digest 23 (March 15, 1949): 20.
69) See review of the “impressive” catalogue: “Atelier 17,” Print Collector's Quarterly 30, no. 2 (March 1950): 69.
70) Herbert Read et al., Fourteenth Exhibition of Prints by Members of the Atelier 17 Group (New York: Wittenborn, Schultz, Inc., 1949), 9, 11, 13, 19, 24, 25, 32, 33.
71)Atelier 17 (New York: Grace Borgenicht Gallery, 1951). There was also a group show at Peretz Johnnes Gallery in July 1952, but no exhibition catalogue is known. See “Atelier 17 Group,” Art Digest 26 (July 1952): 19.
72) For a list of initial members, see Vale Faro to Una Johnson (no date, ca. 1946), Exhibition Series: Vanguard, BKM-DPDP.
73) “Vanguard Schedule,” May 14, 1946, Exhibition Series: Vanguard, BKM-DPDP.
74) Theresa Parker to Earl Sims, October 13, 1950, GC at JS&Co. Una Johnson identified the Painter-Printmakers as the “7 Painter-Printmakers” and included Margaret Lowengrund as a seventh member to Parker's list. See “Chronology of Important Exhibitions” in Una Johnson and John Gordon, 14 Painter-Printmakers (Brooklyn, NY: Brooklyn Museum of Art, 1955). Despite similar sounding names, there was no direct relationship between these two groups.
75) Organizing artists (Citron, Day, Gelb, Margo, von Wicht) to prospective member (Josef Albers, Will Barnet, Fuller, Mason, Gabor Peterdi, Karl Schrag, Louis Schanker, Ryan, Kurt Seligmann), April 20, 1953, reel 998, grid 809, Jan Gelb and Boris Margo papers, 1922–1977, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution [henceforth cited as JG/BKM].
76) After Ryan's death in 1954, the group elected Perle Fine to fill her spot. See meeting agenda, September 19, 1954, JG/BKM, reel 998, grid 778.
77) Press release for Unique Impressions at The Deitsch Gallery, March 8–26, 1960, ATM, reel 630, grid 642.
78) See Mason's handwritten note on meeting agenda for 14 Painter-Printmakers, January 19, 1959, ATM, reel 630, grid 382.
79) 14 Painter-Printmakers organizing letter, April 20, 1953.
80) See invitation to 14 Painter-Printmakers at Stable Gallery, ATM, reel 630, grid 534; see 14 Painter-Printmakers (New York: Kraushaar Galleries, 1954), ATM, reel 630, grids 546–47.
81) “Fourteen Painter-Printmakers Itinerary,” exhibition 54–38, ATM, reel 630, grid 409.
82) See MMA accession numbers 54.591.1–13. The museum did not buy a print by Kurt Seligmann.
83) Invitation, November 11, 1954, JG/BKM, reel 998 grid 778.
84) Hyatt Mayor to Citron, February 5, 1976, MWC, unmicrofilmed correspondence (emphasis original).
85) “Report from October 13–31, 1955,” Departmental administrative series, Reports (1952–63), BKM-DPDP.
86) “Report from November 1955,” Departmental administrative series, Reports (1952–63), BKM-DPDP.
87) Day to Peter Barnet, January 22, 1974, page 2, unmicrofilmed correspondence, Worden Day Papers, 1940–1982, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
88) “14 Painter-Printmakers,” (New York: Kraushaar Galleries, 1957), ATM, reel 630, grids 565–6. Itinerary found in box 29, folder 57–32, American Federation of Arts records, 1895–1993 (bulk 1909–1969), Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
89) Darthea Speyer to Gelb, July 8, 1958, JG/BKM, reel 998, grid 587.
90) See note 75 for Deitsch Gallery. Unique Images (New York: Joseph Grippi Gallery, 1963), ATM, reel 630, grid 593.
91) Drafts of “Venus through the Ages” can be found in JG/BKM, reel 998, grids 421–482, and the artists' notes and clippings for “Venus” in un-microfilmed material from JG/BKM. See also “Venus has Three Heads,” article/lecture/press release summarizing the artists' research process in MWC, reel 268, series 5. For context of Gelb's and Citron's pioneering feminist effort, see Chapter 8 of Daniel Belasco, “Between the Waves: Feminist Positions in American Art, 1949–1962” (PhD diss., New York University, 2008).
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