Heroines of Abstract Expressionism

 In Past Exhibitions


September 19 – December 31, 2019

The Abstract Expressionist movement is best known by its male superstars, but women were also pioneers of the genre. This exhibition, drawn from the Richard P. Friedman and Cindy Lou Wakefield Collection, showcases the work of artists such as Lee Krasner, Elaine DeKooning, Perle Fine, Joan Mitchell, and 15 others—women whose artwork is finding long overdue acclaim and new appreciation with a contemporary audience.

Organized by the Fenimore, this major exhibition features over 30 objects that are both visually mesmerizing and technically complex. It offers the widest breadth of any private assemblage of this genre, featuring the works of 19 women artists–possibly the most extensive museum survey to date on this topic. The artwork on display clearly demonstrates the various ways these artists were pushing themselves in new directions, as leaders and full participants, in the Abstract Expressionism movement.

Abstract Expressionism was the first specifically American style to achieve international influence, and, as a result, 1940s New York replaced Paris as the center of the art world. The style was characterized by experimental, gestural, nonrepresentational painting, often on radically large canvases. For some of the artists associated with the movement, abstract art was a means of expressing ideas concerning nature, the spiritual, and the mind. For others, it was a way to explore formal and technical concerns.

From 1947 to 1951, a number of Abstract Expressionists, among them Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Hans Hofmann, and Mark Rothko, developed their signature painting styles. During the following years these artists, informally called the First Generation of the New York School, received growing recognition nationally and globally. Several groundbreaking women artists from this same period are featured in this exhibition including Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Hedda Sterne, Helen Frankenthaler, Grace Hartigan, and Joan Mitchell. Heroines of Abstract Expressionism also includes works by painters such as Perle Fine, Mary Abbott, Dorothy Dehner, and Michael (Corinne) West and sculptors Louise Nevelson and Louise Bourgeois.

For more than sixty years the contributions these women made to the movement were all but forgotten while works by men such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning have been canonized in the history of American art. It has taken the dedication of scholars and museum curators—and the commitment of a handful of prescient collectors like Friedman and Wakefield—to restore these women artists to their rightful place in the history of American art.



Visit Cooperstown this fall! Heroines of Abstract Expressionism is on view during nature’s most colorful time of the year in upstate New York. To make a visit even more enticing, Fenimore has teamed-up with The Otesaga Hotel and Resort, which overlooks beautiful Otsego Lake, for a special overnight package featuring luxurious accommodations, tickets to Fenimore Art Museum, an exhibition catalogue, and more! Take advantage of the beautiful scenery, the exhibition, and The Otesaga’s splendor this fall.  More info…




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