Ethel Schwabacher: Woman in Nature (Paintings from the 1950s)


Info: Ethel Schwabacher: Woman in Nature (Paintings from the 1950s), Apr 20 - May 26, 2023




NEW YORK, NEW YORK, April 12, 2023— Berry Campbell is pleased to present its first exhibition of Abstract Expressionist Ethel Schwabacher (1903-1984). Schwabacher joins the gallery’s stable of women artists whose ambitious, independent, and insightful art is essential to a complete historical understanding of the ‘downtown’ art scene in the 1950s. Many of the thirteen works have not been on view since they were shown at one of her five solo exhibitions at Betty Parsons Gallery, including the large-scale center piece to the show entitled, Prometheus (1959).  Ethel Schwabacher: Woman in Nature (Paintings from the 1950s) focuses on Schwabacher’s unique brand of abstraction, which is characterized by both automatic drawing and sweeping brushstrokes that swirl across the surface of the canvas and which explores themes of motherhood, landscape, and creativity.

As part of the resurgence of women artists, Ethel Schwabacher was one of the twelve women artists included in the landmark traveling exhibition Women of Abstract Expressionism organized by the Denver Art Museum in 2016.  Concurrently with the Berry Campbell exhibition, Action! Gesture! Paint! is on view at the Whitechapel Gallery in London featuring 91 international women artists, including a major Ethel Schwabacher painting from the 1950s.

Berry Campbell’s exhibition is accompanied by a 26-page catalogue with an essay by Joan M. Marter, Ph.D. entitled “Woman in Nature.” Ethel Schwabacher: Woman in Nature (Paintings from the 1950s) opens with a reception on Thursday, April 20, 2023, 6 – 8 p.m. and continues through May 26, 2023. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. or by appointment. For further information please call at 212.924.2178, visit our website at, or email at

Ethel Schwabacher (1903-1984) was at the center of the New York art world from the 1940s through the 1960s. She was represented by Betty Parsons Gallery, the leading showcase for the avant-garde, where she had five solo exhibitions and was in fourteen group shows. Her friends and acquaintances included leading artists of the era. In addition to painting, she was a skilled writer and published her first book, in 1957, on the life and work of her friend and mentor Arshile Gorky. Her authentic and interpretive account emphasized how Gorky’s Surrealist method, stressing a “freedom from the purely conscious,” was of foundational significance to the Abstract Expressionist movement. She also wrote extensively on the nature of art and on the work of other artists, including the painter John Charles Ford (1929–2014). Schwabacher was featured in Whitney Museum annuals almost every year between 1949 and 1963. Committed to the Civil Rights movement, she actively opposed segregation in the 1950s and 1960s and expressed the battle for a just humanity as a mythic and epic event in her art. In 1987, a traveling retrospective of her work was organized by the Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University. It was curated by the art history professors Greta Berman (Juilliard School) and Mona Hadler (Brooklyn College, City University of New York), both of whom contributed to the show’s catalogue. Schwabacher’s daughter Brenda S. Webster and the poet Judith Emlyn Johnson were the co-editors of a volume containing excerpts from the journal she kept from 1967 to 1980, Hungry for Light, published in 1993 by Indiana University Press, Bloomington. Belonging to the first generation of Abstract Expressionist women artists, Schwabacher achieved recognition and respect in the New York art world for both her work and her intellect.

Schwabacher’s works belong to numerous museum collections including the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Denver Art Museum, Colorado; the Jewish Museum, New York; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota; the Mint Museum, North Carolina;  the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Yale University Art Gallery, Connecticut.