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When the Raven Was White

Grace Hartigan (American, 1922–2008). When the Raven Was White, 1969. Oil on canvas, 88 1/2 x 78 1/2 (224.8 x 199.4). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; The Martha Jackson Collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1974 (1974:8.10). © Estate of Grace Hartigan.

© Estate of Grace Hartigan

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of Grace Hartigan

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of Grace Hartigan

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of Grace Hartigan

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

© Estate of Grace Hartigan

Image downloads are for educational use only. For all other purposes, please see our Obtaining and Using Images page.

Grace Hartigan

American, 1922-2008

When the Raven Was White, 1969

oil on canvas

support: 88 1/2 x 78 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches (224.79 x 199.39 x 4.45 cm)

Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York

The Martha Jackson Collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1974

1974:8.10

More Details

Inscriptions

inscription / stretcher / WHEN THE RAVEN WAS WHITE 78 x 88 HARTIGAN '69

Provenance

the artist;
1970, Martha Jackson Gallery, New York;
May 22, 1974, presented by David K. and Rebecca Reed Anderson from the Estate of Martha Jackson to the Martha Jackson Collection at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery

Class

Paintings

Work Type

Oil painting

This information may change due to ongoing research. Glossary of Terms

In the late 1940s, Grace Hartigan joined the inner circle of New York–based Abstract Expressionist painters. During this time, she often questioned her compositional approach, uncertain if she should favor an all-over or a centrally weighted composition and expressive gesture or evocative color. Initially, she chose to pursue the complete abstraction of her peers, but in 1952, Hartigan began exploring more representational imagery. When several of her contemporaries denounced her new approach, she explained, “I had found that my best work had some roots in the visual world.” When the Raven Was White features a quirky color palette of pinks, blues, and greens. Discrete shapes across the canvas fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Many of these forms are recognizable—flowers, a bird’s head, and an ear. Others are less specific. Hartigan created this painting as a memorial to Martha Jackson, who ran a prominent New York gallery. Hartigan explained that the work’s title “refers to the old myth that the raven once was white and displeased the gods, who turned the bird black forever.” The bird in the upper-left corner is actually a parrot, however, and undoubtedly represents Jackson's beloved pet, Chuckie.

Label from Menagerie: Animals on View, March 11–June 4, 2017

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