Hedda Sterne (1910-2011) is a magnificent heroine of art. She died in New York at the age of 100, almost entirely blind, but still drawing “behind my eyes”. In an eight-decade career, Sterne refused to cleave to any single style – no logo, as she drily remarked – unlike the abstract expressionists, with whom she was and remains too closely associated. She ran all the way from self-portraiture to cityscape, still life and collage. Her last exhibition, at 94, was a series of figurative portraits.
But it was her appearance in a famous Life magazine photograph in 1951 that restricted Sterne’s reputation. She stands at the back, in a hat, the lone woman among the group of New York School painters, including Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell and Willem de Kooning, who had signed a letter of protest against the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s failure to include abstraction in its shows of American art.
Image: Installation view, Victoria Miro Mayfair, 29 January–21 March 2020
All works © The Hedda Sterne Foundation Inc, ARS, NY and DACS, London 2019 Courtesy Van Doren Waxter and Victoria Miro