Dust jacket notes: "Without Betty Parsons and her gallery, it is doubtful whether Abstract Expressionism would have been recognized in America as early and enthusiastically as it was. How this tiny, reclusive woman from a very proper New York society family came to champion the then struggling avant-garde is a little-known but vital chapter in postwar cultural history. Rebelling against the dictates of her parents, Betty Parsons escaped for ten years to France, where she became part of the circle of intellectual American expatriates. Subsequent events took her to Hollywood, where she hoped to live by portrait painting and teaching. But this was the 1930s, and even Hollywood was not exempt from the pinch of the Depression. Returning to New York, she took a job dealing in other people's art, but continued to paint and to make sculptures of her own. In 1947 she opened her own gallery, which quickly became known as the leading showcase for the Abstract Expressionists. In the historic photograph of 'The Irascibles,' in LIFE magazine in 1951, all but one of the fifteen artists pictured - including Rothko, de Kooning, Reinhardt, and Motherwell - showed at the Betty Parsons Gallery. Yet despite her triumphs, Parsons suffered acute disappointments: defecting artists and bruising clashes with other dealers that foreshadowed the big-business aspects of current art dealing. The unique story of this pioneering woman is essential for an understanding of the state of American art yesterday and today."
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The Betty Parsons Gallery, which opened its doors in Manhattan in 1946, quickly became the flagship of abstract expressionism, championing works by Rothko, Pollock et al. Its owner was a determined woman who had rebelled against her New York society family and had divorced a dictatorial husband to seek her fortune as an artist in 1920s and '30s Paris and Hollywood, where she had numerous lesbian affairs. With an eye for originality, Parsons (1900-1982) showcased Joseph Cornell, Barnett Newman and Saul Steinberg. She served as a muse in the "he-man's macho game" of abstract expressionism, all the while craving recognition as a painter and sculptor in her own right. (Regrettably, only one or two examples of her own work are shown here) Tennis partner of Greta Garbo, friend of Janet Flanner and Alexander Calder in Paris, Parsons led a charmed existence, and this richly illustrated biographical profile by a longtime friend captures her many-faceted, whirlwind life.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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