Betty Parsons


acrylic on linen
36 1/2 x 28 3/4 inches

I’ve always been fascinated with what I call “the invisible presence.” That is what I am intrigued with. I am conscious of it while I’m working. – Betty Parsons

Betty Parsons is perhaps best known as the dealer of mid-century art. Her Betty Parsons Gallery launched the careers of Abstract Expressionists Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Clyfford Still (affectionately referred to by Parsons as her “four horsemen of the apocalypse”), as well as artists like Ad Reinhart, Ellsworth Kelly, and Robert Rauschenberg. And though her work as a champion of groundbreaking artists remains at the forefront of her legacy, Parsons maintained an active and prolific career as an artist. Early on she painted small landscapes, but in 1947 (a year after Betty Parsons Gallery opened), her practice took a dramatic turn when she began making abstract work. Characterized by thinly applied layers of vibrant color, her works sought to capture what she called the “sheer energy” of a situation. Spontaneous and full of emotional resonance, like many of the AbEx artist she represented, her paintings exude a raw energy and vibrate with the urgency of an artist committed to, and genuinely in love with, the language of abstraction. Parsons work has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, and is in the permanent collections of institutions such as the Whitney Museum; the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; and MoMA, among others.