On October 9, 1954, Grace Hartigan discovered her River Bathers (1953) hanging in the MoMA as part of an exhibition of 400 works by major artists Gorky, Bill de Kooning, Pollock among them. The painting had been purchased by Alexander Bing, patron of the arts and donated to the MoMA.
Paintings from the Museum Collection inaugurated a year of celebration marking the 25 years since “the ladies” and Alfred Barr had opened their improbable museum. Upon learning that the show had been hung, Grace rushed to the museum and she felt, as she looked at it, that this was where she belonged. “It is a beautiful picture,” she confided to her journal the next day. “I am proud that Barr feels what I know myself, that I am the equal—and more—of most of my American contemporaries.” She also wrote that the sales to the MoMA gave her freedom and that she “had some good pictures” in her.
Elaine de Kooning congratulates her hoping her success paves the way for the other artists.
Dorothy Miller co curator of the exhibition and a strong supporter of Hartigan declared she was among the best of her generation.
Sources: Ninth Street Women, Mary Gabriel
Grace at the Moma, 2020, Acrylic on canvas, 14" x 11" (36 x 28 cm)