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 multimedia 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.