Betty Woodman (1930–2018) is recognized as one of the most important voices in postwar American art, having synthesized sculpture, painting, and ceramics in a highly original and immediately recognizable formal vocabulary. Her embodied readings of a diversity of ancient and modern art historical traditions, as well as her fearless pursuits of visual pleasure, posited her as a boldly contemporary figure whose work proves revelatory in discussions about gender, modernism, craft, architecture, and domesticity. She began as a precocious studio potter in the 1950s; over the subsequent decades she created a radical new vision of how ceramics could function in a contemporary art context. Beginning in the early 2000s, she took on the legacies of Modernist masters like Matisse and Picasso in increasingly direct fashion, incorporating canvas in multi-media works and rendering interior scenes with the breadth and drama of epic history painting.
Betty Woodman was the subject of numerous solo shows during her lifetime, including a 2006 retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York—the first time the museum dedicated such an exhibition to a living female artist; K11 Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2018); the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (2016); Museo Marino Marini, Florence (2015); Gardiner Museum, Toronto (2011); American Academy in Rome (2010); Palazzo Pitti, Giardino di Boboli, Florence, Italy (2009); and Denver Art Museum (2006). Woodman’s work is in numerous permanent collections worldwide, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Boymans-Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam; Brooklyn Museum; Carnegie-Mellon Institute, Pittsburgh; Denver Art Museum; Detroit Art Institute; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museu Nacional do Azulejo, Lisbon, Portugal; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and World Ceramic Center, Ichon, Korea. She lived and worked in Boulder, Colorado; Antella, Italy; and New York.