J o l a n - G r o s s - B e t t e l h e i m- -- 1 9 0 0 - 1 9 7 2

Jolan Gross-Bettelheim is known primarily for her powerful modernist graphics of urban-industrial scenes, and anti-facist imagery created during the depression and pre-World War II era.

Born in Hungary, in an area now part of Slovakia, about 1900, she began studying art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Budapest. She also attended Vienna's Kunstgewerbeschule, followed by a year at Berlin's Akademie für bildende Kunst. From 1922 to 1924, she was in Paris studing at the conservative École des Beaux-Arts and at the Grande Chaumière, a private academy school.

Following her 1925 marriage to fellow Hungarian Frigyes Bettelheim, a psychiatrist, she emmigrated with her husband to Cleveland, Ohio, where she continued her art studies at the Cleveland Institute of Art. Gross-Bettelheim made her first graphic work in 1928 and during the next decade regularly exhibited her prints at the annual exhibitions sponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1935-36, she produced twelve prints for the Cleveland-based Graphics Division of the Works Progress Administration Federal Arts Project relief program. During this period, she joined the Communist Party, whose advocacy of workers' rights found a sympathic reception with many social-conscious artists of the period.

In 1938, the artist and her husband moved to New York and settled in Jackson Heights, Queens. Her only American one-woman show, an exhibition of her pastels, was mounted at the Durand-Ruel Galleries in Manhattan in 1945. The urban landscape of New York with its monumental buildings and bridges


became the subject of her dymanic graphic work during this period. From 1943 to 1950, her work was regularly included in the Library of Congress's print exhibitions and by 1955 she had made about forty prints, primarily in drypoint or lithography.
In 1956, her husband's death and the then virulent McCarthyism impelled Gross-Bettelheim to return permanently to Hungary. She arrived one month before the Hungarian Revolution, an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Soviet Union's dominance of Hungarian political life. The artist's pro-Communist views made her an outsider in her native country; she is said to have lived the remainder of her life in semi-seclusion and she apparently made no more prints. Gross-Bettelheim died in Budapest at the age of seventy-two.

Retrospectives of the artist’s work have been held in Budapest, and Passau, Germany, in 1988 and 1996, respectively; a small exhibition was also held at Grinnell College in Iowa in 2001.

Exhibited: CMA, 1928-1937 (prizes); PAFA, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1936, 1941, 1942; AIC, 1932, 1934, 1935, 1937; NAD, 1943-1946; Santa Barbara Mus. A., 1944; LOC, 1943-1944 (prize), 1945 (prize)-1946; Northwest Pr. M., 1945 (prize), 1946 (prize); CAFA, 1944-1945 (prize), 1946; Denver A. Mus., 1944; WMAA, 1942; CGA, 1944; SFMA, 1944; BM, 1945; Montclair A. Mus., 1945; Durand-Ruel Gal., 1945 (solo); SAGA, 1944-1946, 1950.

Untitled (Bridge Cables II)- c.1940, Lithograph.

No edition, proofs only. Signed in pencil.

Image size 13 3/4 x 9 7/8 inches (349 x 251 mm); sheet size 16 3/8 x 11 3/4 inches (416 x 298 mm).

A fine, rich impression, on cream wove paper, with margins (1 to 1 1/2 inches), in excellent condition.

The structure of the bridge depicted here suggests that Bettelheim's work was inspired by the George Washington Bridge. When the bridge was opened in 1931 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world and was considered an important feat of innovative engineering. The GW Bridge was the subject of works by many New York printmakers of the period including: Howard Cook, Leon Bibel, Louis Lozowick and Otto Kuhler.

Collection: Terra Foundation for American Art


Harbor II- c.1948, Lithograph.

No edition, proofs only. Signed in pencil.

Image size 13 3/8 x 9 5/8 inches (340 x 246 mm); sheet size 16 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches (413 x 311 mm).

A fine, rich impression, on cream wove paper, with full margins (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches), in excellent condition.

Reference: c.f. Reba and Dave Williams, Jolan Gross-Bettelheim: A Hidden File, Print Quarterly (September 1990), pp. 303–307.

Collection: Hunterian Museum, Glasgow.


Harbor, Industrial, WPA