Skip to content

B. New York, NY, 1939
D. New York, NY, 2013

Regina Granne (b. 1939; d. New York, NY, 2013) was an artist interested in the interplay between representation, perception, and form. While working with the traditional subject matter of Western art, Granne navigated what it meant to be a woman artist. She developed a distinct approach to realism, favoring nudes, still lives, and interiors as compositions that reveal the constructed nature of representation and vision. Her paintings and drawings of the 1960s-90s appear to use neutral subject matter like nudes, domestic objects, and floral arrangements. However, Granne’s awareness of art history’s weight gives gravitas to many of her choices over the period: she worked from the nude, which had long been the exclusive affordance of men, and chose a representational style, when academic taste dictated that only abstraction could be serious. The more overt political subject matter of her later work is an extension of a consistent groups of interests.

Growing up in New York, Granne was interested in exercising her independence at her first opportunity, deciding to become an artist from a young age. She earned a spot at Cooper Union, one of the most prestigious art schools of the day. At Cooper, she became interested in sculpture, sparked in part by her professor James Rosati. By the end of her third year, the faculty saw her as one of the top students in her class and suggested she attend Yale Norfolk, a summer program for undergraduates in the country’s top art schools. There, she found her bearings as a painter, and, gaining attention from Yale’s faculty, completed her education at Yale, earning a BFA in 1961 and MFA in 1963.

At Cooper and Yale, Granne studied abstract art, pursuant to the dominance of Abstract Expressionism’s style and philosophy in academia. After leaving school, she spent a year travelling through Europe, where she spent time looking at old masters works of art, inspiring her to create figurative work upon her return to New York.

Granne appropriated the idea of the female nude as neutral subject. In her work of the ‘70s, Granne’s nudes are fragmented, anonymous bodies which appear as abstract shapes within a landscape or still-life. She employs techniques of linear perspective but her saturated planes of color prevent the objects she depicts from comfortably receding in space. The artist conceals distances within her constructed images and uses subtle surface details to indicate volume. She understood painting to be a negotiation between perception, representation, and a physical scene in the world, an image always adulterated by her own cognition and skill, but never existing as something without external referent.

Granne refuted the purely autobiographical – both as it was performed by Abstract Expressionists (painting without external referent) and members of the women’s movement. Nevertheless, she made the female gaze central to her work. Her figures seem poised to move at any moment, going against centuries of the female nude’s passivity and inaction. She preferred working with models who could suspend the tension of a body in motion for their durational poses, leading her to forge relationships with models who she could work with time and time again.

Around 1985, Granne began to speak back to art history more overtly, using reproductions of Renaissance imagery within domestic tableaus, juxtaposing historic, inert images with objects that seem to have physical presence. Granne’s later work of the 1990s introduces more details – hanging rugs, bowls of fruit, and illustrations begin to appear in painted interiors. More recent work exhibited at A.I.R is a commentary on war and its devastating results, utilizing children's war-drawings as pictorial elements. In this series of drawings, paintings, and sculptures, Granne shatters the apparent innocence of objects such as paper airplanes, associated with the naïveté of youth, and further embraces landscape, shadows, and depth to create associations with chaos and loss.

Granne has described her work as "a game of the mind” which reflects how she thinks. Despite this, she says: “my work is not self-referential or psychological. It is intensely observed and matter-of-fact.” This ethos appears in the preliminary drawings which are central to the artist’s process. These varied angles and perspectives appear as layered imagery in which context and identification collide. In his catalogue essay for the 2015 exhibition of Regina Granne’s work at A.I.R., Stephen Westfall writes that Granne’s lines parse surfaces “as tightly as borders on a map,” guiding the eye smoothly from surface to surface.

Granne was represented by A.I.R., an important feminist artist-run space in New York City. From 1973 until 2009, she taught at Parsons School of Design, where she long served as coordinator for the graduate program in Painting. She was also on the faculty at the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, Annandale on Hudson, NY. She exhibited extensively both nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions, including at the National Academy of Design, NYC; Tatistcheff Gallery, NYC; Sejong Art Center Museum, Seoul, Korea; Delaware Arts Center, Narrowsburg, NY; University of the South, Sewanee, Tenn.; Lehman Suite, Colombia University, NYC; International Biennial of Painting, Cuenca, Ecuador; 2B Gallery, Budapest, Hungary; North Dakota Museum of Art, Grand Forks, ND; and the Art Academy of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Back To Top