From the Archives

A look back

L to R: Betty Woodman with Joyce Kozloff, 1981. Photo by Sylvia Plachy / 2-4: Betty Woodman, collaboration with Joyce Kozloff. “Cups," (3 of 12), 1980. 5 in. diameter / "Chrysanthemum Vase," 1980. 14 in / “Purple Toucan Pitcher,” 1980. 17 in. All glazed earthenware / 5-7: Betty Woodman, collaboration with Cynthia Carlson. Installation views, "An Interior Exchanged,” ArtisanSpace, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1982. Dimensions variable. All paint and glazed ceramic.
Betty Woodman with Joyce Kozloff, 1981. Photo by Sylvia Plachy
Betty Woodman, collaborations with Joyce Kozloff and Cynthia Carlson: From the Archives...

In the early 1980s, as Betty Woodman moved into a New York City loft with her husband, George Woodman, and began to shift her functional practice towards ceramic sculpture, she became friends with many artists deeply involved with the Pattern and Decoration movement. She collaborated with two of them: Joyce Kozloff and Cynthia Carlson.‍ With Kozloff, Woodman made ceramic forms—whether cups and saucers, pitchers or trays—which Kozloff then decorated with rich patterns inspired by Islamic tiles and motifs. The resulting works, which dissolve the line between craft and art, were shown in exhibitions at Tibor de Nagy Gallery and the Queens Museum in 1981.

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L to R: Cover and pages from “The Further Adventures of Pinocchio,” published in 2004. Photographs by George Woodman. Poetry by Edwin Frank / Pinocchio in the Woodman Family Foundation archives, 2021.
L to R: Cover of “The Further Adventures of Pinocchio,” published in 2004. Photographs by George Woodman. Poetry by Edwin Frank
A collaborative poem and picture tale by George Woodman and Edwin Frank, "The Further Adventures of Pinocchio," 2004: From the Archives...

Around 2003, George Woodman began incorporating a green wooden Pinocchio into the assemblages of toys, props and images he used to construct his photographs. Pinocchio is an iconic figure in Italian literature and culture, popularized by the classic children’s novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio,” written by Florentine author Carlo Collodi in the late 19th century. Woodman was interested in Pinocchio as the protagonist in his own picture stories.

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Our archives intern Molly McBride Jacobson digs into unsorted family photographs from our archives: From the Archives...

The Woodman Family Foundation archives include boxes and boxes of family photographs, spanning the early days George and Betty spent in Albuquerque where they welcomed their son Charlie into the world; to their move to a modernist home in Boulder—the site of many birthday parties, pottery sales, impromptu installations of paintings and Francesca’s earliest experiments with “dress up;” until just a few years ago enjoying breakfast with their grandson Alexander in both New York and Antella.

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All images related to Betty Woodman’s “Bronze Bench #3,” 2003. 57 x 62 x 16 in. Bronze, patina. From L to R: clay models for bronze benches outside Betty’s studio in Antella, Italy / Benches in progress at the Fonderia with Betty’s full-scale drawing / Applying the patina according to Betty’s drawing / The finished bench arrives at Betty’s studio in Antella / Installation view in the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, Museo delle Porcellane, Florence, Italy, 2010 / Installation view, “Betty Woodman: In the Garden,” Greenwood Gardens, Short Hills, New Jersey, 2016 / Betty outside of her studio in Antella.
Clay models for Betty Woodman's bronze benches outside Betty’s studio in Antella, Italy, c. 2003.
Betty Woodman's functional bronze sculptures: From the Archives...

On occasion, Betty Woodman translated her abiding interest in the subject of function into materials other than clay, always pushing the possibilities of a particular medium. In 1999, she began an ongoing collaboration with Fonderia Artistica Belfiore in Pietrasanta, Italy, an idea which came from a conversation with her longtime gallerist, Max Protetch and was in part inspired by fellow gallery artist Scott Burton’s sculptural furniture, as well as the formal Italian gardens she had spent decades exploring.

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George Woodman in "Partitions" at Pratt Manhattan Gallery, New York, 1982: From the Archives...

In the fall of 1982, the exhibition “Partitions” at Pratt Manhattan Center Gallery featured the work of 15 artists—including George Woodman—concerned with contemporary interpretations of screens. As hybrid sculptural, decorative, functional objects, partitions and interest in them were a kind of corollary to the burgeoning Pattern and Decoration Movement, and described by critic John Perreault, who wrote the exhibition’s essay, as “ubiquitous,” “a phenomenon,” and “a challenge to some preconceptions about art."

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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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L to R: Entrance to the Woodman family’s farmhouse adorned with a Pillow Pitcher by Betty atop a wall of George’s “sgraffito,” 2017 / View of the olive groves from Betty’s studio, 2004 / Betty cutting well-tended roses growing against the wall next to her studio, 2008 / Betty making flower arrangements with roses, dahlias and gerbera daisies from her garden, 2006 / Betty putting fresh flowers in a group of her “Vase and Stand” works, 1984 / Betty, a young family friend, and Francesca, c. late 1960s / Table set for dinner, 2016, photo by Brigid McCaffrey / Generous bowls and baskets full of figs, plums, peaches, grapes, and tomatoes, 2016 / Betty, Charlie and Francesca cooking together, c. early 1970s / George at his studio door, 2006 / A view out from the same door, 2008 / Francesca and Betty holding their bunnies, c. 1968 / Charlie on his motorino, c. late 1960s / Betty and friend with Betty’s triptych “June in Italy” (2001), c. 2001 / George with his sculpture, c. early 1970s / he Woodman family’s patio with potted geraniums and the olive grove in view, c. 1990s / Morning glories climbing George’s “sgrafitto” wall, c. 1990s.
L to R: Entrance to the Woodman family’s farmhouse adorned with a Pillow Pitcher by Betty atop a wall of George’s “sgraffito,” 2017 / George with his sculpture, c. early 1970s / Betty, Charlie and Francesca cooking together, c. early 1970s / Betty cutting well-tended roses growing against the wall next to her studio, 2008.
AUGUST IN ANTELLA

Beginning in the summer of 1968, the Woodman Family spent every summer at their stone farmhouse in Antella, Italy, just outside of Florence. As children, Charlie and Francesca joined their parents and later visited on their own, soaking in Italian culture and influences. Betty and George made some of their most important artistic breakthroughs there—a place George once described as "an artist residency for two.” All summer long, their garden produced abundant food and flowers—the tomatoes were particularly good in August, happily shared with frequent visitors.

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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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