How Carmen Herrera Became One of Art History’s Most Celebrated Abstractionists

Carmen Herrera, Green Garden, 1950, acrylic on canvas.
© CARMEN HERRERA/COURTESY LISSON GALLERY

Herrera studied architecture in her youth.
Herrera was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1915, and throughout the 1930s and 1940s she traveled frequently to France. She spent a year studying architecture at the Universidad de La Habana, after which she enrolled with the Art Students League in New York. Before making a permanent move to New York in 1954, Herrera lived in Paris with her husband Jesse Loewenthal, whom she married in 1939. She exhibited lyrical abstract works at the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris between 1949 and 1953, but she did not make any sales. Herrera told ARTnews in 2015 that the Cuban artist Amelia Peláez was one of her earliest influences. “I admired her so much. I liked what she was doing. It was the first thing I really liked. I heard her and I asked questions, and she was terrific,” she said.

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