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How the Ninth Street Women Conquered the Art World

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Wednesday, August 3, 2022 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2210
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Materials for this program
  1. Handout

Tutti Fruitti, 1966, by Helen Frankenthaler

Abstract Expressionists. It was a label applied to the artists behind a revolutionary development in post-World War II American painting. It conjures up images of a rowdy boys’s club where the likes of Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Robert Motherwell, and Franz Kline met in the Cedar Tavern to drink, start fistfights, and trade boasts about their sexual conquests. But a group of female abstract expressionists were also making important contributions to this avant-garde movement.   

After being overshadowed for many decades, they are finally getting their due through a flood of recent books, exhibitions, films, and plays celebrating their accomplishments. Most notable among them were five painters whose work was featured in the groundbreaking Ninth Street Art Exhibition of 1951, in New York’s Greenwich Village. Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Grace Hartigan, Joan Mitchell, and Helen Frankenthaler—the so-called “Ninth Street Women”—covered enormous canvases with energetic, slashing brushstrokes, emphasizing the raw and unrestrained process of artistic creation, revealing their own emotions in an abstract, yet powerful, way. 

In this richly illustrated talk, art historian Nancy G. Heller examines these women’s art and lives, their relationships with their male counterparts, and the gender-related obstacles they had to overcome to claim their place in a changing art world.

Heller is professor emerita of the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.

World Art History Certificate elective: Earn 1/2 credit*

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*Enrolled participants in the World Art History Certificate Program receive 1/2 elective credit. Not yet enrolled? Learn about the program, its benefits, and how to register here.

American Women's History Initiative