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Berenice Abbott (American, 1898-1991) Betty Parsons ca. 1927 Vintage silver print, 2 x 2 1/4 in. Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Betty Parsons (1900-1982) was born in New York City of a wealthy family. At age 13, she visited the Armory Show, the international exhibition that introduced many Americans to modern art, which made a strong impression on her. Rebelling against her society upbringing, Parsons moved to Paris in 1923 where she studied sculpture and was taken under the wing of journalist Janet Flanner.

Parsons returned to the United States in 1933 and opened her own art gallery in New York in 1947, which soon became the focal point of the new American art known as Abstract Expressionism. Parsons spent the next 30 years promoting the work of these artists including, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clifford Still, Ellsworth Kelly, Barnett Newman, Hans Hoffmann, and Ad Reinhardt. Parsons was recently described in ARTnews magazine as “the den mother of Abstract Expressionism” for the important role she played in the national and international recognition of contemporary American art.

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