National Museum of Women in the Arts
Joan Snyder
April 16 1940 - present
Photograph of Joan Synder, by Marni Horwitz, courtesy of Betty Cunningham Gallery. (c) Marni Horwitz, 2005
Place of Birth:
Highland Park
Phonetic Spelling:
joh-n (SN-EYE)-derr
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Mixed Media Artist , Painter, Printmaker
Artist's Biography:
In the 1960s, modernist abstraction, which held tremendous sway in the United States, was characterized by a concentration on the formal qualities of painting to the exclusion of any carriers of meaning that existed outside the work. This suppression of narrative followed fewer than ten years later by a reintroduction of content so strong that its effects are still with us today. The expressionist response to the reductive aesthetic of 1960s painting was championed by numerous artists, including Joan Snyder, Jennifer Bartlett, Susan Rothenberg, and Elizabeth Murray. Engaged in feminist politics and the Women’s Movement in the 1970s, their desire to challenge the myth of male artistic genius and to recast the traditional canon of art history, helped them make their mark on American painting during the last three decades of the twentieth century.

Snyder provided a model for ambitious women of her generation in the 1970s. She began painting as a senior at Douglass College, Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, and continued her studies at Rutgers, receiving a Master of Fine Arts in 1966. From the very start, Snyder saw her art as visual poetry, a language that opened her world.

At the beginning of the 1970s, she received early, positive critical attention for her “stroke paintings"—loosely brushed paintings using vertical and horizontal marks that were concerned with formalist issues such as the integrity of the picture plane, the grid, and the canvas’ edge. As Snyder recalls, she soon found these works too easy and began to search for a less formulaic approach to her art making.

In the ensuing five years, Snyder consciously and openly rejected the analytical approach of many of her peers and sought a new lexicon of artistic forms that was more expressive, deeply emotional, and personal. By 1974, her iconography encompassed images of the body, childlike drawings of houses and landscapes, hearts, stick figures, and scrawled personal notes. In addition, although her painterliness took its cue from abstract expressionism, she added to the canvas surface a wealth of collage elements—fabric, wallpaper, linoleum, and papier mâché—and she even sewed, stuffed or darned elements into the core of the work, processes the artist described as markedly female in sensibility.

Beginning in the mid-1980’s in her “field paintings", landscape (which had always been a part of her work) resurfaced as a principal theme. Equating her artistic activity with the ability to make a fallow, unmarked canvas field bloom, in these works, Snyder expressed a strong identification of the female body with earth and fertility.

Other Occupation(s):
Instructor, Teacher
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA (1964-1966) Douglass College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA (1958-1962)
Related Visual Artists:
friend of Louisa Chase influenced Diana Folsom
Fellowships, grants and awards:
First Prize (Best Regional Exhibition), International Association of Art Critics, New York, NY, USA (1994) Fellowship, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, New York, NY, USA (1983) Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington, DC, USA (1974)
Earliest exhibition:
Joan Snyder, Paintings Sculpture: Master of Fine Arts Thesis Exhibition, Douglass College, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA (1966)
NMWA exhibition(s):
WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution
Steven Scott Collects: Donations and Promised Gifts to the Permanent Collection
Artist retrospective(s):
Joan Snyder: A Painting Survey, 1969-2005, The Jewish Museum, New York, NY, USA (2005) Joan Snyder, Works on Paper, Allentown Museum of Art, Allentown, PA, USA (1994) Joan Snyder, Painter 1969 to Now, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, USA (1994)
Can We Turn Our Rage to Poetry, 1985
Our Foremothers, 1995
Symphony, 1970
Can We Turn Our Rage to Poetry
Our Foremothers