Gertrude Abercrombie was a very unique 20th century surrealist. I came across her paintings on Tumblr (where I find everything nowadays) and was fascinated by her unsettling self-portraits, mystifying themes, and dark, barren landscapes. I wanted to share some of her art with you all since I don’t think I ever post about art.
Gertrude was born in 1909 in Texas. She moved a lot as a child. She loved jazz music, languages, and crossword puzzles. Gertrude took art classes in college and exhibited her art in galleries in Chicago and New York. In 1931, she got a job drawing glove advertisements for a department store in Chicago, where she spent most of her life. Gertrude also worked as a catalog artist for Sears. We all have to start somewhere. She was also quite the party girl and liked to drink, which led to a decline in health later in her life. A fun fact about Gertrude is that she was called a “witch” by children due to her dark clothes, pointed velvet hats, and large chin and nose. That supernatural vibe from her real life carries over into her art.
Gertrude’s paintings combine fantasy and reality and she’s usually the only human present in them. I love that she painted lots of owls, cats, moons, clouds, white towers, Victorian furniture, weird trees, and magic and sorcery of all kinds. That subject matter is very appealing to me. Gertrude’s backgrounds and landscapes are very minimal, leaving the figures in a large, open space. There are always strange things happening in her paintings. Like, why is that horse half-in the house window and why is that creepy man chasing that women through the woods? Some of Gertrude’s paintings are genuinely disturbing.
Gertrude was known for playing with shadows and incorporating other paintings within her paintings. These elements force the viewer to analyze the painting in more than one perspective. But, I don’t think Gertrude wanted us to figure out what’s happening in her art. We must form our own interpretation of her glimpses into odd events. The mystery is just a part of the genius and keeps me staring at her work.
What do you guys think of Gertrude’s art? Would you want to live in one of her paintings? I think I might fear for my safety. 😉