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Betty Parsons

American, 1900-1982

Her work exudes a palpable ease and effortlessness that reflects her strengths as a natural and instinctive colorist

Perhaps one of the most powerful and invaluable contributors to the Abstract Expressionist movement, Betty Parsons legacy lies with her early promotion and undying faith in the emerging New York artists of the 40s and 50s. Beginning in the 1940s, Parsons worked as dealer and gallerist amongst the rapidly changing and unprecedented excitement of the New York art scene. For decades her reputation as art dealer has overshadowed her identity as an artist, but the extensive impact she made on a multitude of careers owes itself to her deep “interest in creation” (1) and love for the arts.

Perhaps one of the most powerful and invaluable contributors to the Abstract Expressionist movement, Betty Parsons legacy lies with her early promotion and undying faith in the emerging New York artists of the 40s and 50s. Beginning in the 1940s, Parsons worked as dealer and gallerist amongst the rapidly changing and unprecedented excitement of the New York art scene. For decades her reputation as art dealer has overshadowed her identity as an artist, but the extensive impact she made on a multitude of careers owes itself to her deep “interest in creation” (1) and love for the arts.

 

Parsons lifelong affinity with art began with a visit to the Armory Show of 1913. In the years to follow, she studied in Paris where she familiarized herself with Realism and worked within the confines of what she discovered to be a limiting approach. Moving into the 1940s she experimented with ‘action painting’, entering the realm of Abstraction. Even with the opening of her own gallery, she closed for the summers to focus on her work, painting, and sculpting in her Long Island studio. Her work exudes a palpable ease and effortlessness that reflects her strengths as a natural and instinctive colorist, made richer by her many travels. She worked free from the inescapable pressure felt by the AbEx painters around her.

 

Parsons personal artistic endeavors may have been overlooked during her lifetime but they are most worthy of critical study in the present day. Her efforts as an artist, businesswoman, and loyal friend contributed to the canon of a precise moment in time; when New York became the booming powerhouse of the art world. Clement Greenberg spoke in reverence when he stated: Parsons gallery is “a place where art goes on and is not just shown and sold.” (2).

 

1. ARTnews. (2017). From the Archives: "Betty Parsons, Gallerist Turned Artist, Takes the Spotlight," in 1979 -. [online]
2. Brenson, M. (1982). "BETTY PARSONS, ART DEALER, 82; PIONEER IN NEW YORK SCHOOL." NY TIMES.

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