The late Grace Hartigan, a celebrated Abstract Expressionist painter who served as director of MICA’s Hoffberger School of Painting since its inception in 1965, has left more than $1 million in paintings combined to the College and Maryland Art Place (MAP), according to both institutions’ Boards of Trustees.
Grace Hartigan, Night in Tunisia, oil on linen, 2000, 60” x 78”. Photo: Courtesy of Maryland Institute College of Art
Hartigan, who died on Nov. 15, 2008 at the age of 86, had deep connections to MICA and MAP for many years, said MICA faculty Rex Stevens, Hartigan’s former student, longtime friend, studio assistant and personal representative.
“MICA was an integral part of her life for the last 40-plus years,” Stevens said. “She loved the students and fondly remembered how the school welcomed her with open arms when she arrived in Baltimore from New York during the 1960s. She learned on the job how to develop a give and take of knowledge with the graduate students that benefited both parties.
“Grace had a terrific relationship and friendship with former President Eugene “Bud” Leake and current President Fred Lazarus, and was given a great deal of freedom by both to develop over the years a top rated graduate school of painting. She had appreciated the support and knew the door to their office was always opened for a stimulating conversation.”
Stevens said Hartigan had known for many years she was going to leave a gift of paintings — a total of 12 oil on linen works made between 1987 and 2004 — to MICA for the benefit of students after she could no longer personally mentor them.
“She also realized how hard it is to afford a great education and hoped the paintings would benefit the students through scholarships,” Stevens said.
MICA has formed an executive committee to decide how best to maximize the value of the bequest in the spirit of Hartigan’s intentions for it, according to Lazarus.
“Grace mentored generations of artists during her lifetime,” Lazarus said. “Her teaching legacy continues with this extraordinary gift.”
Hartigan, a close friend of MAP board member Suzi Cordish, generously left the gift of five paintings to MAP to demonstrate her support of the contemporary art center’s dedication to exhibiting artists at all levels of their careers, according to Stevens.
“Grace was impressed by MAP’s important and enduring role in Baltimore’s cultural community,” Stevens said. “She wanted MAP to continue to be a vital exhibition space for the work of talented artists of the region, many of whom have been Hoffberger faculty and graduates. MAP has enabled the work of Grace’s students to be visible to the greater world.”
Hartigan’s gift will provide funds for Maryland Art Place’s future projects, said Cathy Byrd, executive director of MAP.
“The Board of Trustees of Maryland Art Place is honored by Grace Hartigan’s bequest,” Byrd said. “Ms. Hartigan was a friend that understood MAP and its mission. Her incomparable talent and dedication inspire us in our mentoring and support of artists.”
Hartigan’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and countless other museums and universities, including MICA, whose Brown Center atrium features her mammoth, Visions of Heaven and Hell.
Maryland Art Place (MAP) is a not-for-profit center for contemporary art established in 1981 to: develop and maintain a dynamic environment for regional artists to exhibit their work, nurture and promote new ideas and new forms, and facilitate rewarding exchanges between artists and the public through educational leadership. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11am to 5 pm. There is no admission charge to enter the gallery or to participate in MAP’s regularly scheduled programs and events.