|Place of Birth||Chicago, IL, USA|
|Place of Death||New York, NY, USA|
|Birth Name||Francine Felsenthal|
Francis Felsenthal was born in Chicago in 1922. By 1930 she was living in a boarding house with her sister and mother, who worked in a dry goods store.1 She graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1940 and likely attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC).2 She exhibited prints with the Vanguard Group, founded in 1945 by Chicago-based architect Robert Vale Faro, and primarily produced screen prints but also painted, drew, and made etchings and woodcuts.3 Felsenthal became associated with Atelier 17 around 1947, after entering a heated debate with Hayter on the pages of the Serigraph Quarterly. In his article, “The Silk Screen,” Hayter suggested that the medium was serviceable for reproduction rather than original expression. Revealing her spunkiness, Felsenthal’s letter recounts her initial reaction upon reading his words: “‘Wotthehell does this Hayter guy do for a living,’ I growl. Then I calm down, turn the page and observe that Mr. Hayter wants some backfire … so I figured I better jump in with both feet.”4 Out of personal curiosity or perhaps through a direct invitation from Hayter, Felsenthal began working at Atelier 17 shortly thereafter and continued through Peter Grippe’s tenure, appearing in his student ledger book for 1952–53.5 One intaglio print, Beachcombers, was part of Hayter’s estate collection, and several other prints with marine titles appear on a list of Atelier 17 prints found in Helen Phillips’s papers.6 Thanks to correspondence Felsenthal initiated in 1969 with Ellen Lanyon and Roland Ginzel—presumably classmates from the SAIC—we now know Felsenthal stopped painting in the mid-1950s for about twelve years, married (and divorced), taught art at a public middle school in New York, and attended New York University for her master’s degree.7 Felsenthal, who also went by Francine Fels, was an original member of the March Gallery, one of the artist-run cooperatives, which was open from 1957 to 1960.8
Bard, Joellen. Tenth Street Days: The Co-Ops of the 50’s. New York: Education, Art & Service, Inc., 1977.
Felsenthal, Francine. “Department of Interesting Letters.” Serigraph Quarterly II, no. 1 (February 1947): 2.
- Information courtesy 1930 census records: Census Place: Chicago, Cook, Illinois; Page: 34B; Enumeration District: 0658; FHL microfilm: 2340179. ↩
- Unfortunately, SAIC’s archives do not hold student records dating back to this era. ↩
- “Vanguard: Contemporary Printmakers” (11/6/1946-12/15/1946), Exhibition Series, Records of the Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs, Brooklyn Museum, New York. ↩
- Francine Felsenthal, “Department of Interesting Letters,” Serigraph Quarterly 2, no. 1 (February 1947): 2. Hayter’s article appeared in the previous issue: Stanley William Hayter, “The Silk Screen,” Serigraph Quarterly 1, no. 4 (November 1946): 1. ↩
- Student ledger book, p. 45, Allentown Art Museum/Grippe Collection, Allentown, Penn. ↩
- Titles on Phillips’s list include Beachcomber (1949), Boatyard (1952), and Bather (1952). See untitled and undated list, Helen Phillips Papers, Paris. The National Serigraph Society published several of Felsenthal’s screen prints, all completed in 1946: A Lonesome George, Observing Person, and Portrait of John Scott. ↩
- Francine Felsenthal to Ellen Lanyon and Roland Ginzel, July 3, 1969, February 8, 1970, April 4, 1970, reel 1234:218–228, Ellen Lanyon Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. ↩
- Joellen Bard, Tenth Street Days: The Co-Ops of the 50’s (New York: Education, Art and Service, 1977), 32–33. ↩