Lily HarmonAmerican, 1912-1998
Lily Harmon, an artist who worked in portraiture, assemblage and book illustration, and whose third husband was the collector Joseph H. Hirshhorn, died on Wednesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 85.
Ms. Harmon, whose original name was Lily Perlmutter, was born in 1912 in New Haven. She studied art at the Yale School of Fine Arts in New Haven, then at the Academie Colarossi in Paris and the Art Students' League in New York. By the early 1930's she was working in a Social Realist style that with adjustments would be the mainstay of her work.
Ms. Harmon's art could lean toward social satire similar to Philip Evergood's, or scenes of poetic introspection, like some of Philip Guston's early works. But it usually followed a tradition of sympathetic portraiture personified by Raphael Soyer, becoming increasingly refined in the 1970's. Her subjects tended to be relatives or art-world friends: her grandmother; the painter Helen Frankenthaler; Mimi Gross, the daughter of the sculptor Chaim Gross; and the mother of her first husband, Philip Graham Harden, shown in a work from 1931 titled "My Nude Mother-in-Law."
Ms. Harmon had her first solo exhibition at the Associated American Artists Gallery in New York in 1944. She met the millionaire Joseph Hirshhorn, one of the most active art collectors of his generation, in the early 40's when he visited her studio to see her paintings. They were married in 1945 and adopted two infant daughters, in 1946 and 1950. The marriage ended in divorce in 1956.
Ms. Harmon exhibited regularly in surveys of contemporary American art in museums across the country, including the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington and the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.
In 1982, a 50-year retrospective organized by the Wichita Art Museum in Kansas traveled to the Provincetown Art Association in Massachusetts and the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio. In December, the Butler Institute mounted a second show, devoted to the found-object assemblages and collages that Ms. Harmon made intermittently in the 1960's and 70's, which will close on March 1.
Ms. Harmon is represented in public collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum and the Jewish Museum in New York City, and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington.
From 1945 to 1976, Ms. Harmon illustrated books, most notably works by Andre Gide, Jean-Paul Sartre, Thomas Mann, Edith Wharton and Franz Kafka. "Freehand," her autobiography, was published in 1981 (Simon & Schuster).