Gertrude (Glass) Greene 1904 - 1956 American Painters, Sculptors
The largely self-taught abstract painter–sculptor Gertrude Greene was born in Brooklyn to Latvian Jewish émigrés. By the second half of the 1930s she would find herself an essential participant in Manhattan’s lively avant-garde, moving among the most progressive painters’ circles and having her work included in the permanent collection of Albert E. Gallatin’s pioneering Museum of Living Art (1927–1942), at the Washington Square campus of New York University. Greene’s primary artistic training was acquired from 1924 to 1926 at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School—only recently founded on Manhattan’s Lower East Side by the sculptor and social activist Onorio Ruotolo, as a resource of free instruction for the city’s working poor (Isamu Noguchi was an early attendee). Greene’s study under the Italian sculptor and painter Cesare Stea doubtless figured in her later decision to specialize in wood relief sculpture. After marrying the philosopher and novelist Balcomb Greene, in 1926, and setting up her first sculpture studio, in New Hampshire, she spent 1931 to 1932 in Paris, where she absorbed the latest progressive movements—Constructivism, Suprematism, Neo-Plasticism, Surrealism—and moved in the avant-garde artists’ collective Abstraction-Création. From 1933 to 1942, Greene painted in a combined geometric and biomorphic abstract idiom and participated in the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration; she designed a mural for radio station WNYC in New York's municipal building in 1939, but the work was never realized. She was also active in various artists’ associations, helping to form the Unemployed Artists’ Group (later Artists’ Union) and cofounding American Abstract Artists in 1936. Greene and her husband moved to the East End in about 1946, building themselves a simple house on a deserted cliff in Montauk. In the last decade of her life, before her untimely death to cancer, she virtually dispensed with her brushes and worked with a palette knife. [Gregory Galligan]
Gertrude Greene and her husband, Balcomb Greene, moved to the East End in about 1946, where they built a simple house on a deserted cliff in Montauk.