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Words of Wisdom

Grace Hartigan’s Definition of Humor: “Emotional pain remembered in tranquillity”

“Perhaps the subject of my art is like the definition of humor — emotional pain remembered in tranquillity.” -Abstract expressionist Grace Hartigan (1922-2008)

Grace Hartigan (1922-2008) was an abstract expressionist painter who emerged during the 1940s and ’50s as an important figure in the New York School. Just as the Beats brought innovation to the poetic form, Hartigan and other American abstract expressionists turning the painting world on its head following World War II. Often cited as the greatest female artist of the movement, Hartigan lived the final 40+ years of her life in Baltimore, where she was a major player in the art scene until her death in 2008.


“Perhaps the subject of my art is like the definition of humor — emotional pain remembered in tranquillity.”

-Grace Hartigan, as quoted in “Grace Hartigan, 86, Abstract Painter, Dies” in The New York Times (18 November 2008) 

(h/t Wikiquote)


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“The extasy [sic] of abstract beauty,” artist Richard Pousette-Dart scrawled in 1981 in a notebook on a page across from a Georges Braque-looking abstract pencil drawing. Although included in Nina Leen’s iconic 1951 Life magazine photo “The Irascibles” that featured Abstract Expressionist heavyweights Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman, Pousette-Dart has always stood on the edges, as he does in the photo, of full identification with that group.

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