Caradoc Ehrenhalt would often accompany his mother, the artist Amaranth Ehrenhalt, on her visits to the Louvre in Paris and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She enjoyed taking a close-up look at the works, many of which were by artists she had known personally.
Mr. Ehrenhalt loved those trips. The museum guards not so much.
"She would get very close to the art and point out details and techniques, her finger getting close," her son said. The guards would rush over and issue the don't touch warning.
Amaranth Ehrenhalt was a multifaceted artist best known for her paintings. She was part of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists, working first in New York in the early 1950s, and then in Paris for much of the rest of her career. Never afraid to experiment, Ehrenhalt's work may best be described as bold, even aggressive, in execution, composition and even color. She worked across media, including oils, works on paper, prints and etchings, tapestry, design and sculpture.
Amaranth Ehrenhalt died on March 16 in Manhattan. She was 93. The cause was Covid-19.
"We began working with Amaranth almost 10 years ago," said Lawrence Fine Art Gallery Director Howard Shapiro. Lawrence Fine Art represents the artist. "She liked to push the envelop artistically speaking and she wasn't afraid. Sometimes it works--and when it did, it was a wonder--and sometimes it didn't."
Ehrenhalt moved to Paris early in her career and settled there as an expatriate artist for the next forty-odd years. Le Select Cafe was the place where artists and cognoscenti met. There Ehrenhalt met Beauford Delaney and Yves Klein (for whom she bought baby clothes when he couldn't afford them), among others. Sonia Delaunay bought her painting materials when she had no money. There she befriended Giacometti. And there she exhibited with, among others, Joan Mitchell, Sam Francis, Shirley Jaffe and Norman Bluhm, most recently in 2017 at the Mona Bismarck Foundation in Paris as part of its "American Artists in Paris" exhibition. She was included in the Denver Art Museum's exhibition "Women of Abstract Expressionism" the year after.
"Ehrenhalt worked under the radar for much of her career. It's possible that's because she chose to work in Paris when New York was the locus of the art world," said Shapiro.
Like many female artists of the period, she was taken less seriously because she was a woman. This story, which Ehrenhalt liked to tell, illustrated that fact:
Completed in 1961, her work Jump in and Move Around was shown at an exhibition in Paris in 1962 along with the work of several other artists. The work was signed "Ehrenhalt." John Ashbery, the critic for the International Herald Tribune, reviewed the show and wrote the following: "A key figure among these 31 artists from 14 countries might be the American Ehrenhalt. [Jump In and Move Around is] both an example of New York School abstraction (lush colors, fluent brushwork, bustling composition) and an attempt at a new, possibly eerie, form of figuration."
Several weeks later, Ehrenhalt met Ashberry and thanked him for his review. At first, Ashbery could not remember the review, but when she reminded him of the piece, he had this to say: "I never would have reviewed your painting if I had known you were a woman!"
That work is now in a French museum collection.
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