Museum of Modern Art Director Alfred Barr visited the Tibor de Nagy Gallery on the last day of Grace Hartigan’s show in 1953. Barr lavished praise on Hartigan’s work titled, The Persian Jacket, and brought the painting back to MoMA on approval. Hartigan’s friend, the poet Frank O’Hara, was watching from his perch at the front desk at MoMA. O'Hara called Hartigan and gave her a blow-by-blow account of the awkward entrance of the massive canvas through the front door.
The next day, Barr called to say that there was a problem with the upper left-hand corner of the painting—Grace had failed to maintain the flatness of the surface. At his suggestion, she came to the museum the following Monday with her paints and spent about 30 minutes fixing the blend of colors in that spot.
Hartigan said in her journal:
"I went up there this afternoon. Persian Jacket looked good, more full and arrogant than I remembered. I agreed about the area—it always was a difficult one to solve, partly because it is the most open area, and the one which in traditional painting would be the background. The area bends in, so it doesn't sit right—and I'm going up on Monday with my paints to work on it a little. This was at Barr's suggestion—I thought it a bit unconventional, but we both remembered the incident of Delacroix touching up the Massacre of Scio two days before it was shown."
It took two months for the sale to go through—Barr secured a patron to buy the painting for $400 and donate it to the museum. The recognition was a great triumph for Hartigan.
|The Persian Jacket | 1952|
Oil on Canvas | 57 1/2 in. x 48 in.
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter by Cathy Curtis
The Journals of Grace Hartigan, 1951-1955