All Green by Mary Abbott

Women of Abstract Expressionism Artist Mary Abbott

Nature was Mary Abbot’s greatest companion, inspiration, and passion throughout her entire life. As a child she spent vast amounts of time outdoors, submerging herself in the natural world. She considered studying biology but didn’t want to go to college. Painting provided her the perfect opportunity to study and experience nature. Her work inspired by the jungles of the Caribbean is more about her experience of the jungle rather than any depiction of it.

Raised in Southampton, she came from a family of strong women and historical lineage (she is a descendent of the second president of the United States John Adams). She traveled in her youth with her grandmother and her aunt Mary Ogden Abbott, an artist in her own right. Her natural beauty led to a successful coming out as a debutante and modeling for several magazines but she challenged the gender norm by pursuing painting as her main career.

Her first marriage was to Lewis R. Tague who was also a painter. They worked alongside each other, exploring cubism before their separation and divorce three years later. Then she moved to New York City and found her own artistic voice, working alongside David Hare and Mark Rothko who taught her at the experimental school The Subjects of the Artist.

It was with her second husband, Tom Clyde that she had the opportunity to explore the tropics. The pair wintered in the Caribbean because of Clyde’s health and Mary’s love of travel and nature. She adored the jungles and culture of Haiti and the Virgin Islands and spent time in the jungles, markets, and abandoned plantations in search of inspiration for her work.

Still living in Southampton, Mary continues to paint and pull inspiration from the natural world.

Learn more in the video below.

Image credit: Mary Abbott, All Green, about 1954. Oil paint on linen; 49 × 45-1/8 in. Denver Art Museum: Gift of Janis and Tom McCormick, 2013.250. ©Mary Abbott

This is a trailer for the film Women of Abstract Expressionism and exhibition of the same name that will be at the Denver Art Museum June 12-September 25, 2016. Features interviews with artists Judith Godwin, Mary Abbott, and Sonia Gechtoff. The film, produced in association with the exhibition Women of Abstract Expressionism, is generously supported by Barbara Bridges and DAM Contemporaries, a support group of the Denver Art Museum.

Sarah Lillis is a 2016 intern in the department of learning and engagement.