From the Archives

A look back

A letter from George Woodman to Francesca Woodman, September 4, 1977: From the Archives...

September of 1977 marked the start of new academic year for each of the Woodmans and the pursuit of teaching or studies in four different locations around the US and Europe. Francesca Woodman had just begun her fruitful year in Rome with the RISD European Honors Program, after spending some time in Antella. In a letter sent to her from Boulder, George Woodman recaps summer travels and reports on the rest of the family’s activities.

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Saul Steinberg show announcement from George Woodman to Betty Woodman, 1952: From the Archives...

George Woodman and Betty Abrahams wrote each other regularly beginning soon after they met in 1951—while Betty was at home in Newton, MA and later in Fiesole, Italy and George at home in Concord, NH or at school at Harvard in Cambridge, MA—until they married in 1953. In 1952, after a trip to New York and a visit to an exhibition of drawings by Saul Steinberg (fellow lover of cats, who drew them frequently), George sent Betty this show announcement, remarking “these wonderful cats I got for you when I was in N.Y.”

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The Woodman family explores Italy, circa 1959-60 and 1965-66: From the Archives...

The Woodman family’s lifelong love of Italy began in 1951 with Betty’s yearlong apprenticeship in Fiesole. After marrying in 1953, Betty and George took their young children, Charles and Francesca, for extended stays in 1959-60 and again in 1965-66.

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George Woodman at the Boulder Center for the Visual Arts, Boulder, CO, Fall 1981: From the Archives...

George Woodman’s exhibition at the Boulder Center for the Visual Arts in the fall of 1981 was a survey of his various approaches to pattern over 15 years, ranging from his complex tessellations, to the use of pattern to unify a surface, to a rigorous examination of the decorative, and finally to the all-encompassing perceptual experience of his room-scaled paper tile installations.

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An invitation to friends from George for Betty Woodman's 60th birthday party, 1990: From the Archives...

"Let us celebrate!”—as George Woodman and friends did on this day in 1990, fêting Betty Woodman for her 60th birthday at their Chelsea loft.

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L to R: Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #15,” 1995. 59.5 x 74.5 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper / Album of snapshots Betty took while a resident at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy / Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #17,” 1995. 37 x 88 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper / Installation view "Betty Woodman,” Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, 1996.
Betty Woodman. “Bellagio drawing #15,” 1995. 59.5 x 74.5 inches. Terra sigilatta, graphite, wax on thai mulberry paper.
Betty Woodman's residency at the Bellagio Study Center, Italy, 1995: From the Archives...

Betty Woodman’s month-long residency at the Bellagio Study Center in 1995 on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship provided her the time and space to begin a formally complex, mixed-media “drawing” practice which continued for the rest of her life, later influencing her iconic painted canvas and ceramic wall works.

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Images L to R: All works by Francesca Woodman. Untitled (from Swan Song series), Providence, Rhode Island, 1978. Invitation by Francesca Woodman / Gelatin silver prints: 2) 39 1/2 x 44 in. 4) 35 1/4 x 33 in. / Installation views, Woods-Gerry Gallery, RISD, 1978 / Review by David K. Miller, 1978.
Invitation by Francesca Woodman, 1978.
Francesca Woodman's BFA graduate exhibition at Woods-Gerry Hall Gallery, RISD, 1978: From the Archives...

Francesca Woodman’s graduate exhibition as a student at the Rhode Island School of Design was held at the school’s Woods-Gerry Gallery in November 1978. She considered it a “swan song” to her time there as shown in her photocopied invitation. She reported on the opening in a letter to her friend Edith Schloss: “you would have enjoyed it i bought all these bird whistles that one fills with water and they warble in n.y. do you remember them from when you used to live there? anyway the room was very echoey with these things and i actually enjoyed the opening.”

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A birthday card from Betty to George Woodman, circa 1990s: From the Archives...

As Betty wrote in this card from the '90s, HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GEORGE! Pictured at the family’s Tuscan farmhouse, George happily shares space with two friendly doves, a thriving lemon tree, his sgraffito on the outdoor wall, and a good book. Betty’s photo, likely taken by George, captures the beauty of the beloved Italian landscape that informed his life and work for nearly 50 years.

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Betty and George Woodman in "1+1=2" exhibition at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery, 1984: From the Archives...

In 1984, following a series of exhibitions at PS1 dedicated to “Art Couples,” art historian and critic Donald Kuspit organized "1 + 1 = 2" at Bernice Steinbaum Gallery in Manhattan. The exhibition paired the work of 31 artist couples and acknowledged a long-overdue cultural shift in recognizing women artists as peers to their male counterparts. Betty Woodman and George Woodman—included in the exhibition and married for more than thirty years at that point—often credited their mutual respect for and support of each other as artists as the bedrock of their marriage.

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George Woodman review by Peter Frank in "The Village Voice," May 7, 1979: From the Archives...

In May of 1979, George Woodman received this review from “The Village Voice” in the mail, clipped and sent to him by his daughter Francesca. It was addressed in her hand “For Daddy,” and pointed out where his work is discussed.

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Betty Woodman's "Presenting Food" at The Fabric Workshop and Museum, 1985: From the Archives...

“Presenting Food,” 1985, marked Betty Woodman’s second project with the Fabric Workshop and Museum and a farewell to her work as a functional potter. For this dinner-performance event, held at the museum’s New York City gallery space, Woodman responded to chef Daniel Mattroce’s menu with her signature ceramic dinnerware and serving dishes, accompanied by fabrics she designed and printed at FWM’s Philadelphia studios. Woodman later recounted: “These are my last functional pieces, ‘presented’ like the food in an almost operatic finale.”

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Francesca Woodman birth announcement, 1958: From the Archives...

Francesca Woodman was born on this day in 1958. Her artist parents used this drawing by George, recently discovered in the family archive, to share the good news with family and friends.

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