Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts Project

By the Archives

February 12, 2016

Funded by the A G Foundation

Photograph of Elizabeth Murray
Elizabeth Murray (photograph provided by PaceWildenstein Gallery)

In 2007 and 2009 the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University and the Archives of American Art received substantial gifts from Agnes Gund, philanthropist and president emerita of the Museum of Modern Art, through her A G Foundation, to produce oral history interviews of women artists, art historians, and curators who have had a lasting and significant influence on the American art world. An advisory committee led by Agnes Gund selected the interviewees. The project, named “The Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts,” honors the memory of the painter and printmaker Elizabeth Murray (1940–2007). These oral histories are primarily audio interviews, but many are supplemented with video recordings.

The Oral History Research Office at Columbia University conducted the first thirteen interviews with Grace Glueck, former art writer, critic and reviewer for the New York Times, as the lead interviewer. The Archives of American Art followed with twenty oral history interviews and interviewers included Avis Berman, Judith Olch Richards, James McElhinney, George Sampson, Sue Heinemann, Julia K. Brown, and Charles F. Stuckey.

“It seems so right to honor Elizabeth Murray by archiving the lives, the thoughts, the dreams and goals of other women who—like herself—persisted in the visual arts, extending and enriching the world through their work,” said Agnes Gund.

A painter’s painter, Elizabeth Murray was one of the most respected artists of her generation. She became well known for her large and boisterous paintings, often executed on shaped or three-dimensional canvases and for her depictions of everyday objects such as coffee cups or shoes. Her colorful and energetic work infused cubism with a Pop sensibility to play with the pure possibilities of form. In 1995, Murray curated the exhibition “Elizabeth Murray: Modern Women,” at the Museum of Modern Art as part of their Artist’s Choice series. In her statement Murray thanked the women artists whose work she selected, writing, “Each one of them has opened the door into art-making a little further for us to walk through—they have widened our consciousness of what art can be, and who can be an artist, a real artist.” The same can be said of the women chosen for this oral history project. Each has made significant contributions to the history of art.

For further information about this project, contact:

Liza Kirwin, Deputy Director, Archives of American Art, KirwinL@si.edu
Elizabeth Pope, Assistant Director, Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University, egp2007@columbia.edu

View the Oral Histories in this project

Total Records: 19

Interviews conducted by the Oral History Research Office at Columbia University as part of the Elizabeth Murray Oral History of Women in the Visual Arts Project are: 

Ida Applebroog

Elaine Lustig Cohen

Joan Jonas

Dorothea Rockburne

Rosamond Bernier Russell

Betye Saar

Sylvia Sleigh

Barbara Turner Smith