American, 1909 - 1977
Gertrude Abercrombie was born in Austin, TX in 1909 to parents who were traveling opera singers. The family settled in Aledo, Illinois in 1914. Abercrombie studied romance languages at the University of Illinois and after college, studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art. Her home in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago became a salon of sorts for such writers and musicians as Dizzy Gilespie, Sonny Rollins, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn and Thornton Wilder, among others. It was through Thornton Wilder that Abercrombie met Gertrude Stein in 1935. Stein advised Abercrombie that she had to ‘draw better’ and Abercrombie took her advice, developing the Surrealist style for which she is best known. Her career took off after this 1935 meeting with Stein, as Abercrombie won her first award at the Art Institute of Chicago. Abercrombie became a colorful presence on the Chicago art scene, hosting wild parties and driving around town in a battered Rolls Royce. Her Surrealist paintings have developed quite a devoted following among collectors. Typically, they are small works that often feature self-portraits of the artist.
Abercrombie’s paintings were included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s recent exhibition , “In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States”, January 29, 2012–May 6, 2012.