Gertrude Abercrombie (American, 1909–1977) was a critical figure in the midcentury Chicago art scene and a creative force who, from the 1930s until her death in 1977, produced enigmatic paintings populated with objects and figures of personal significance. With a deft hand, a concise symbolic vocabulary, and a restrained palette, she created potent images that speak to her mercurial nature and her evolving psychology as an artist. Cats, owls, snails, doors, moons, barren trees, seashells, forking paths, and masked figures all converge in her mysterious works, which suggest a life of wistful introspection and emotional struggle. Drawing consistently on her own dreams as source material, Abercrombie said, “The whole world is a mystery.”
This exhibition is co-organized by Carnegie Museum of Art and Colby College Museum of Art and presents a rare opportunity for museum visitors to appreciate—in significant depth—Abercrombie’s highly personal language that draws on surrealist and magic realism approaches to probe deeply into the nature of things. Featuring loans from important institutional and private collections, Gertrude Abercrombie: The Whole World Is a Mystery is the most comprehensive museum presentation of the artist’s work to date.
Gertrude Abercrombie: The Whole World Is a Mystery is curated by Eric Crosby, Henry J. Heinz II Director, Carnegie Museum of Art, and Vice President, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh and Sarah Humphreville, Lunder Curator of American Art at the Colby College Museum of Art, with Cynthia Stucki, curatorial assistant at Carnegie Museum of Art.