Mary Henry


colored pencil 7x14

Born 1913. American constructivist / abstract painter. Studied Chicago Institute of Design 1946. Highly regarded northwest artist.

Octogenarian Mary Henry finds inspiration in "the geometry of all life, from its infinitesimally small parts to the structure of the universe." Her large, abstract paintings display a continuing vision and a distinctive voice influenced by her studies with Hungarian constructivist artist László Moholy-Nagy in 1946. Henry was first exposed to modernism at California School of Arts and Crafts, Oakland in the 1930s. While working in the Berkeley Federal Art Project, she attended a lecture by Moholy-Nagy. Seven years later, Henry enrolled at Chicago Institute of Design under his tutelage, embracing the credo of an art of abstract forms possessing universal meaning. She has pushed this idea's boundaries ever since.

Seeking clarity and order in her paintings, Henry "constructed them as I would a piece of architecture. 'Perfection of structure' might well be the words I work by," she says. Moving back to San Francisco, Henry juggled family life while working as a muralist, the only female member of the Sign, Scene and Pictorial Painters Union, and later a design consultant. It wasn't until she reached her fifties that Henry was able to concentrate solely on painting. Henry does not use spray equipment or masking tape. Applying her brush with great precision and eloquence, she distills the image "until its beauty of form, its contemplative spaces speak to the viewer with energy and insight."