Anne Truitt (1921-2004)

Anne Truitt was an important American sculptor of the mid-20th century. She was born in Baltimore, MD. Truitt spent much of her life working in Washington D.C. The artist was inspired by the landscape or Easton, MD, where she spent her childhood. Her early sculptures were figurative. However, a visit to the Guggenheim museum in New York,  in 1961 changed her visual prerogatives. Truitt was inspired by artists such as Barnett Newman and Ad Reinhardt. She was championed by the critic Clement Greenberg in the 1960s, however, her work did not receive significant recognition until recent years.


Truitt is perhaps best recognized for her Minimalist sculptures but is also celebrated for her exuberant Color Field paintings and works on paper. Central to her work is the relationship between structure and surface. The artist’s oeuvre extensively employed the use of acrylic paint, which was meticulously painted onto various substrates, such as paper, canvas, and wooden sculpture. The artist is often associated with Minimalism, although her work in some ways conflicts with the movement conceptually in that she was not focused on the objective character of industrial products. Truitt, unlike her Minimalist counterparts in New York, eschewed industrial modes of creation. Her work was made by hand, and her narratives were personal, which stood in contrast to her Minimalist contemporaries.

Like other artists of the era, form, color, and spatial relationships were concerns in her work. However, the meta-narratives are one of the main things that ultimately separated her from her contemporaries. Truitt embraced the themes of memory and nostalgia. Childhood and human relations were also topics she dealt with. The human scale of her iconic Columns from the 1960s is one example of this in her work; the objects appear to interact with one another and are not architectural in scale. The Columns also refer to the architectural environment of the artist’s childhood on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She would allude to these forms as figures, and it was important to the artist that her works be viewed at 360 degrees. Certain works reference external reality; architectural forms such as a house, fence, or other man-made objects are occasionally discernible. For Truitt meaning and form were inextricably intertwined, and she aimed to maximize meaning using the simplest form.


Truitt’s work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Dia Art Foundation, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She was also exhibited in solo shows at André Emmerich Gallery in 1963 and was one of only three women included in the influential 1966 exhibition, Primary Structures at the Jewish Museum in New York. Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, and the Hirshhorn Museum, in Washington, D.C.  The Hirshhorn Museum mounted a retrospective exhibition, Anne Truitt: Perception and Reflection, in 2009. Most recently in 2012, the Delaware Art Museum organized an exhibition entitled Luminosities which explored the artist’s desire to make light “visible for its own sake” through three-dimensional forms. Truitt received many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and five honorary doctorates. She was acting director of Yaddo, an artists’ retreat in New York in 1984. 


Anne Truitt died in Washington D.C. in December of 2004.