Nearly one hundred women artists became affiliated with Atelier 17, the avant-garde printmaking studio located in New York City between 1940 and 1955. Stanley William Hayter (1901-1988), the studio’s founder, opened Atelier 17 in the late 1920s on Paris’s Left Bank as an informal printmaking workshop. Faced with the threat of Europe’s growing conflict, he relocated the studio to New York City in 1940 where it remained until 1955. While in the United States, Atelier 17 facilitated women’s exposure to and eventual practice of modernist styles, including abstraction, surrealism, and expressionism. Making prints at Atelier 17 served as a conduit through which these female artists realized extraordinary professional achievements and built momentum that, in some instances, spurred major developments in postwar sculpture, fiber art, Pattern and Decoration, and the neo-dada movement. More significantly, the experience of working at Atelier 17 also catalyzed a range of proto-feminist strategies and activity in the decades before women’s art movement of the 1970s. Even if these artists were not self-professed “feminists”—and few identified this way—the studio generated a wide spectrum of proto-feminist attitudes and practices, such as collaboration, network building, and collegial support of one another’s careers.
Yet these workshop members have been consistently marginalized in published accounts of Atelier 17. For a 1977 exhibition honoring the workshop’s fiftieth anniversary, curator Joann Moser assembled a list of hundreds of participants drawn from archives, exhibition catalogues, reviews, Hayter’s own Rolodex, and prints in his collection, but all too often there was no information beyond a name.1 Who are these artists and where did they come from? What ambitions drew them to the workshop, and how did experimenting with modernist printmaking shape their careers? And, most importantly, what was the character of the art they made afterwards?
For the first time, The Women of Atelier 17: The Biographical Supplement reconstructs each woman’s involvement with Atelier 17. To the extent possible given available primary documents and secondary literature, each biographical entry describes the artists’ background, education, and artistic training, as well as the method by which they learned about Atelier 17 and how the experience of working there affected the course of their lives, both personally and professionally. Most entries also feature a photograph of the artist and an image of her work—hopefully a print made at Atelier 17, and if not, a representative work made at roughly the same moment.
This online project complements The Women of Atelier 17: Modernist Printmaking in Midcentury New York published by Yale University Press. The Biographical Supplement will be available for five years from the time of its publication in June 2019. Unfortunately, licensing fees are too prohibitive to keep this site running indefinitely.
Please read, learn, and build from this resource. These amazing artists deserve our attention.