Highlights from the Collection: Gertrude Abercrombie (American 1909-1977)

Gertrude Abercrombie was born in 1909 in Austin Texas, the only child of Tom and Lula Janes Abercrombie who both worked in a traveling opera company. At the age of four, Gertrude’s parent’s work took them to Berlin, Germany, where the family lived until the onset of World War I. At the start of the war they returned to the United States and settled in Aledo in Western Illinois, and later moved to Chicago.

Abercrombie earned a bachelors degree in Romance Languages from the University of Illinois at Champaign Urbana and then attended art classes at the Chicago Art Institute and American Academy of Art. After working briefly as a commercial artist, Abercrombie began painting in 1932 and in 1934 was selected for employment by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The income from this program allowed her to focus exclusively on her art and to live independently from her family.

Known for her minimalist and surrealist paintings, Abercrombie’s artworks frequently feature loan female figures (often dawning witch hats) and tend to include owls, cats, and moonlit landscapes. The block prints pictured above are from Abercrombie’s time in the WPA, and both images were featured in WPA Artist Calendars.

Abercrombie is featured in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, among others.
Gertrude Abercrombie, artnet, http://www.artnet.com/artists/gertrude-abercrombie/
Gertrude Abercrombie, Sullivan Goss, An American Gallery, https://www.sullivangoss.com/artists/gertrude-abercrombie-1909-1977

Images: top: Moonlight (May 7-13 in Artists Calendar, 1939), print, 7″ x 5″
Right: Clown and Pedestal (Jan 23- 29 in Artists Calendar, 1940), print, 7″ x 5″

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