Upon her arrival in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1945, Hartigan quickly became ensconced within the tight-knit group of New York school painters, which included Milton Avery, Mark Rothko, and Adolph Gottlieb, among others. In 1949, Hartigan travelled with her husband Harry Jackson to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, where she enrolled in the town’s art school. The present work is one of the first paintings the artist completed upon her return to New York and exhibits the variety of techniques in applying commercial paint to the surface of her canvas. Sprayed, dripped, and painted in swaths of lemon yellow, maroon, stone, black and white, Months and Moons presents a collision of abstracted forms and color that, while providing hints of her Surrealist influences, remains entirely non-representational. At this juncture in her career, Hartigan was struggling financially and lacked the means to acquire new materials. Instead of buying a brand new canvas, Hartigan found one that had been painted on by second-generation Abstract Expressionist artist Bob Goodnough, and then discarded. It was on the reverse of Goodnough’s work that Hartigan executed Months and Moons, priming the cloth and stretching it over elements of shipping crates, which were the cheapest and most accessible options available to her.
Months and Moons was particularly significant to the artist and indeed hung above her desk for many years. The present work not only showcases her painterly bravura, but also reveals her fascination with chance, as evidenced in the black drips of pigment down the side of the canvas. Moreover, Hartigan placed great value on the immediacy of her work, and did not complete any preliminary sketches or drawings, nor did she varnish this piece, feeling that it inhibited the viewer’s experience with the surface. Even today, Months and Moons endures as a vivid and dramatic example from one of Abstract Expressionism’s most individual artists.
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