Grace Hartigan’s ‘Elizabeth Etched’ inspired by Royalty

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we hope you enjoy this print from our collection. It is on view in the lobby gallery at the museum.

Grace Hartigan (American, 1922–2008)
Elizabeth Etched, 1984
Four-color aquatint and etching with mixed media on paper
45″ H x 35 1/8″ W x 1 3/8″ D     
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts  
Gift of Paul Gore and Carolyn Hall, A3580,00.0309
Grace Hartigan made paintings and prints of intensely colored, gestural figures, inspired by coloring books, films, easel paintings, and advertisements. This work depicts Queen Elizabeth II (1926–2022), who is shown looking up to her left in contemplation. By employing contrasts of red and brown, Hartigan created the effect of sunlight shining on Elizabeth’s hair and filtering through the curtain in the background. This print reflects Hartigan’s interest in strong women, a choice that paralleled challenges in her own life, including her struggle with alcoholism in the early 1980s, attempted suicide, and her husband’s (Dr. Winston Price) mental and physical decline. Elizabeth Etched is part of a series titled Great Queens and Empresses that Hartigan began in the fall of 1983.

Hartigan was one of a small number of women associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement that blossomed in New York City from the late 1940s to early ’50s. An associate of Jackson Pollock, Willem and Elaine de Kooning, Larry Rivers, Helen Frankenthaler, and the poet Frank O’Hara, Hartigan played an essential role in the artistic and literary awakening that repositioned New York as the center of the modern art world.

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Hartigan moved to New York after World War II. There, she saw an exhibition of Pollock’s work at the Betty Parsons Gallery, which influenced her shift to a strongly gestural, abstract style. Relocating to Baltimore in the 1960s, Hartigan became director of the Hoffberger Graduate School of Painting at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). During the 1970s, she also developed a close relationship with Philip Guston, whose work is also represented in the museum’s collection.