Nell Blaine


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Painter and printmaker. Known for colorful, painterly still lifes and landscapes, she evolved this approach from a strong start as an abstract painter. Born in Richmond, she began her training in 1939 at the art school of the Richmond Professional Institute (now part of Virginia Commonwealth University). In 1942 she moved to New York, where she studied with Hans Hofmann until 1944, joined the American Abstract Artists in that year, around the same time spearheaded the pioneering Jane Street cooperative gallery, pursued etching at Atelier 17 with Stanley William Hayter in 1945, and took classes at the New School for Social Research (now New School) in 1952–53. Following her first sojourn abroad in 1950, she continued to travel widely. Many of her paintings reflect distant locales in Europe, Mexico, and elsewhere, but familiar places, such as the garden of the Gloucester, Massachusetts, summer residence she purchased in 1975, also provided intimate and visually piquant subjects. At the time of her 1943 marriage (which lasted only six years) to musician Robert Bass, her art reflected a preoccupation with music, especially contemporary jazz, as she painted rhythmic, loosely brushed, improvisatory works aligned with abstract expressionism. In the mid-1940s, her work temporarily became more structural and clean-edged in response to the work of European modernists including Mondrian, Arp, and Fernand Léger. During the 1950 visit to France and Italy, she looked back to such masters of fluid chromaticism as Monet, Pierre Bonnard, and Matisse. By the end of the decade she had defined a personal approach to celebrating visual sensation, while also emphasizing the process of painting. As a printmaker, she worked often with etching and woodcut early in her career but later often turned to lithography. During a visit to Greece in 1959, she contracted polio, which left her partially paralyzed and permanently confined to a wheelchair, but this misfortune had little effect on her vibrant aesthetic. She died in New York.

Subjects: Art.

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