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de Kooning, Elaine (12 March 1918–01 February 1989), artist and critic, was born Elaine Marie Catherine Fried in Brooklyn, New York, the daughter of Charles Frank Fried, an accountant, and Mary Ellen O’Brien. She grew up in Brooklyn, and, encouraged by her mother, began to show a strong interest in art by the age of five. She attended Erasmus Hall High School, where she began her formal training in art. After a brief enrollment at Hunter College, Elaine Fried began to study at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in Manhattan in 1937. A year later she switched to the American Artists School and, influenced by the political environment of the school, began to work in a social realist vein. Her artistic direction changed quickly, however, after she began private study with the Dutch-born painter ...

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Jane Heap. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ6-2112).

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Heap, Jane (01 November 1883–16 June 1964), artist and editor, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the daughter of George Heap, an engineer, and Emma (maiden name unknown). Interested in art from an early age, Heap attended the Art Institute of Chicago from 1901 until 1905 and later studied mural design in Germany. By the century’s second decade Chicago was in the midst of a “Renaissance” in art and literature. Writers and artists influenced by Nietzsche, Shaw, Picasso, and Gauguin attacked the straitlaced conservatism of the Victorian genteel tradition. Young midwesterners with artistic aspirations traveled to Chicago where they embraced and expressed an American modernism that owed much to European philosophies. Heap was among them....

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Pennell, Elizabeth Robins (21 Feb. 1855–7 Feb. 1936), author, art critic, and culinary writer, was born Elizabeth Robins in Philadelphia to Edward Robins, a member of the Philadelphia Exchange, and Margaret Miller, who died shortly after giving birth to her. In spite of the family’s devout Episcopalian background, Robins converted to Catholicism and enrolled his daughter in a convent at Conflans, France, and then at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Torresdale, a suburb of Philadelphia, where she was a bright, capable student. At the Convent of the Sacred Heart, she met Agnes Repplier, who would also go on to become a writer, with whom she maintained a lifelong friendship....

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Saarinen, Aline Bernstein (25 March 1914–13 July 1972), art critic and historian, was born in New York City, the daughter of Allen Bernstein, an investment counselor, and Irma Lewyn. Both parents were amateur painters. Aline graduated from Vassar College as a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 1935. That same year she married Joseph H. Louchheim, a public welfare administrator; they had two children. Aline Louchheim received a master’s degree in architectural history from New York University in 1939. During World War II she worked in governmental service....

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Sargent, Irene Jesse (20 February 1852–14 September 1932), teacher and art critic, was born in Auburn, New York, the youngest daughter of Rufus Sargent, a manufacturer, and Phebe (maiden name unknown). Privately educated as a child, Sargent moved from Auburn to Boston with her parents when she was in her early twenties and thereafter claimed that city as her birthplace. Though no record of her formal education survives, she apparently studied music at the Boston Conservatory. She later studied the history of art and architecture at the University of Paris and in Rome as well as with ...

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Van Rensselaer, Mariana Griswold (25 February 1851–20 January 1934), art critic, was born in New York City, the daughter of George Catlin Griswold, a merchant, and Lydia Alley. The offspring of two wealthy, patrician parents, she was educated at home before being taken in 1868 to Dresden, Germany, where she completed her education. While there, in 1873, she married Schuyler Van Rensselaer, a mining engineer from the New Jersey branch of this great patroon family. The couple soon returned to the United States, where they lived in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and at diverse mining sites, until his death from a lung disease in 1884. They had one child. After Schuyler’s death, Van Rensselaer lived in New York City for the remainder of her life....