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Black and white photograph of a light-skinned woman with short hair, sitting a rocking chair in a painting studio.

Emily Mason


"I like to feel that I work on a painting until something magical happens. Until it becomes something outside of myself, a new vision."

A black and white photograph from 1932 of a woman with a light skin tone wearing a dress, seated, and holding a baby with a light skin tone.
Alice Trumbull Mason and Emily Mason, 1932.


Emily Mason is born in New York City on January 12. Her mother, artist Alice Trumbull Mason, takes the subway to Sydenham Hospital in Harlem to give birth. Mason’s father, Warwood Edwin Mason, a sea captain for American Export Line, is away at sea. 


A black and white photograph from the early 1930s of two chillden with light skin tones sitting on a swing outdoors.
Emily Mason and Jo Mason, early 1930s.


Mason’s brother Jonathan (“Jo”) Trumbull Mason, is born on November 16th, sharing a birthday with their mother.

Sepia toned portrait photograph from the mid-1930s of a light skinned girl leaning against a tree outdoors.
Emily Mason at the Little Red Schoolhouse, mid-1930s, photographed by Mitzie Soloman.


Mason attends the Little Red Schoolhouse on Charlton Street in Greenwich Village.

Photograph from the late 1930s of a light-skinned woman and a younger, light skinned girl on a brick building rooftop.
Alice Trumbull Mason and Emily Mason on the rooftop of their apartment in Knickerbocker Village, late 1930s.


In 1938, Mason’s mother moves the family to Horatio Street in Greenwich Village to Knickerbocker Village, located between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. 

Mason recalls, “Summers (between 1938 and 1940) were spent at a farm camp in Buck’s county, Ottsville, Pennsylvania…I remember playing in the brook near the farmhouse where we all lived. We would crush different colored stones to make a powder/pigment/paste and paint flat rocks with this “paint.” We also used Polkberry juice, which was fuchsia.”

Sepia toned photograph from 1941 of a light-skinned girl holding a cat in a pastoral setting.
Emily Mason circa 1941.


Mason’s mother rents the family a bungalow near Fishkill, NY, for the summer of 1942. She and the children plant what was known during the war years as a Victory Garden or a vegetable garden. Mason would later recall fondly her mother teaching her to make ketchup from their tomatoes: “To this day, I cannot stand commercially made ketchup.”

Black and white photograph from the mid-1940s of a young girl outdoors, standing on grass; New York City buildings can be seen in the distance behind her.
Emily Mason near Riverside Drive, mid-1940s.


Mason spends part of her childhood summers in Friendship, Maine with her aunt Mary McGarvey. Due to a circulatory condition, Mason’s father becomes port captain for the American Export Line; this allows him to be home with the family and no longer away at sea. The family moves to West 85th Street near Riverside Drive, and Mason is enrolled in Public School No. 9. 

A book with a red cover and black spine, designed with lines and geometric shapes; vertical text on the left-hand side reads "music and art"
Emily Mason’s yearbook from the High School of Music and Art.


Mason attends the High School of Music and Art, which exposes her to cultural programming and museum visits. With her mother, she begins visiting the Artist’s Club at its original location on East 8th Street.

In June of 1950, Mason graduates from the High School of Music and Art and is accepted into Bennington College in Vermont. 

The cover of a pamphlet for Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in liberty, Maine. The pamphlet is white, layered with slivers of black and white photographs depicting students working on projects at the school.
Pamphlet for the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine.


Mason transfers from Bennington College to The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City. In the summer of 1952, Mason attends the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Maine as one of two scholarship recipients; here, she is particularly influenced by Jack Lenor Larsen’s lectures on analogous color theory. Mason stated that these lectures “enabled [her] to continuously discover how colors can affect each other, a visual magic.”

Black and white selfie photograph from the 1950s of two woman with light skin tones, their heads next to each other, looking into the camera.
Emily Mason and Joanna Bourne at Bennington College, early 1950s.


Throughout her years at Cooper Union, Mason takes a night job at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. Mason enjoys her cohort and faculty at The Cooper Union, and studies with Morris Kantor, Nicholas Mariscano, and Will Barnet. Mason lives with her friend Johanna Bourne on East 10th Street near 2nd Avenue.  

Black and white photograph of a man, young woman, and an older woman on a ship, all with light skin tones and smiling.
From left to right: Warwood Mason, Emily Mason, and Alice Trumbull Mason, 1954.


In the summer of 1954, Mason and Bourne travel throughout Europe with fellow student Alan Gussow, who is living in the American Academy in Rome. The trip has an enormous impact on Mason and shapes much of her understanding of Western Art. In France, she sees the recently discovered Lascaux Caves. In Italy, she sees Giotto’s frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, the mosaics in Ravenna, and the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Black and white photograph from 1955 of a young woman with a light skin tone kneeling in the grass and sketching in front of a wire fence and three black cows.
Mason at the Yale-Norfolk Summer Art School, 1955.


Mason is graduated from The Cooper Union in 1955 and attends the Yale-Norfolk Summer Art School where she studies with Conrad Marca-Relli. 

A black and white photograph from the 1960s of a smiling young woman with a light skin tone standing next to, and holding up, an abstract painting.
Emily Mason at her exhibition in Venice with the painting “Umbria Verte,” 1958.


Mason is awarded a Fulbright grant to study in Venice. In April, at a meeting of the Artist’s Club, she meets the artist Wolf Kahn. Mason spends the summer with him in Provincetown, Massachusetts, where she observes a critique given by Hans Hoffmann at his school. 

In the fall, Mason sets sail for Venice along with other Fulbright scholars. The group studies Italian for a month in Perugia, where Mason’s roommate is Lee Bontecou. When the course is over, Mason travels to Venice and enrolls in the Accademia di Belle Arti, where she studies with Bruno Saetti. In December, Mason meets Kahn in Le Havre, France, and they stop briefly in Paris before returning together in Venice. 

A black and white photograph from 1957 of a bride and groom, both with light skin tones, seated at a marriage ceremony.
Emily Mason and Wolf Kahn at their wedding ceremony in Venice, 1957.


In Venice, Mason and Kahn rent the large central room of a palazzo on the Giudecca. During the winter they live and paint in one small room that can be heated. 

Mason and Kahn marry in March at the municipal building near the Rialto Bridge. In the spring, the couple travels to Rome to visit friends Gretna Campbell, as well as Louis Finkelstein in Frascati and Lee Bontecou in Trastevere. Mason’s paintings earn her a second year of the Fulbright grant. 

Photograph from the mid-1940s of two middle-school aged children with light skin tones, standing in a creek in the woods. There is a girl on the left, and a boy with glasses on right.
Emily and her brother Jo in the mid-1940s.


Mason and Kahn spend April in Greece before spending another summer in Venice. In November, Mason and Kahn set off for the United States, stopping first in Paris and then in Spain. In Madrid, they visit the Prado Museum. After a pause in Granada, they depart for New York City from Gibraltar. 

Mason’s brother Jonathan disappears in Portland, Oregon, and after many months his body is found in the Puget Sound.

Black and white photograph from 1959 of a woman with a light skin tone, staring back over her right shoulder to the photographer to pause her work on an abstract painting, holding a brush in one hand and a palette knife in another.
Mason in Martha’s Vineyard, 1959.


Mason and Kahn return to his loft on Broadway and 12th Street. They spend the summer on Lambert’s Cove on Martha’s Vineyard, and in September, Mason gives birth to their daughter, Cecily, in New York City.

At the end of the year, Mason joins Area Gallery on 10th Street, an artist-run space. In addition to helping run the gallery and plan exhibitions, members painted the gallery, up-kept maintenance, and foraged for wood to keep the pot-belly stove working in the colder months.

Image of a beige card with orange text which reads "Emily Mason: Area Gallery, 80 East 1o Street, NYC, Preview Friday, January 8, 8-10, January 8-28, Gallery Hours: 1-6 PM, Closed Mondays."
Emily Mason’s solo exhibition card from Area Gallery, 1960.


Mason spends February to May 1960 in San Francisco, California, where Kahn takes his first teaching position at the University of California, Berkeley. They return to Martha’s vineyard in the summer, and in late October, to New York City.

Mason’s first solo exhibition opens at the Area Gallery in 1960 and includes canvases and works on paper she completed in Venice.

Oil on canvas painting, comprised of reds, yellows, and purples, with gestures of green and orange near the bottom of the composition.
“Deer Isle,” 1962, oil on canvas, 42 x 40 in.


The summer of this year is also spent in Deer Isle. Mason returns to Italy in the fall with Kahn, who had won a Fulbright grant, and their daughter Cecily. They settle in Milan for the winter.

Black and white photograph from 1963 of a woman with a light skin tone standing near a window and looking over to a table of painting supplies and a canvas on a easel.
Mason in Canepina, 1963.


In the spring, the couple moves to Canepina, Italy. In the fall, they leave for Rome, where they rent their friend Lucio Pozzi’s apartment on the Via Flamminia near the Piazza del Popolo.

Black and white photograph from 1964 of a woman with a light skin tone and a bob haircut with bangs, seated, looking directly at the camera.
Mason in Rome, 1964.


In March, Mason and Kahn’s daughter Melany is born in Rome, Italy.

Black and white photograph from 1965 of a woman with a light skin tone, wearing a horizontal striped shirt and long skirt, standing in a barn doorway next to an abstract painting.
Mason in Martha’s Vineyard, Oak Bluffs, 1965.


The family returns to the United States from Italy. The summer and the next are spent in Oak Bluffs on Martha’s Vineyard in a house that had been the home of Leslie Miller, a nineteenth-century artist.

Black and white photograph from 1966 of a young woman with a light skin tone and shoulder-length straight hair standing infant of an abstract painting.
Emily Mason in the Broadway, NYC studio, 1966.


Mason and Kahn move to a new apartment on East 15th Street. Their Broadway loft is now used only as a shared studio.

Photography circa 1970s-1980s of a barn with the front doors open, revealing an artist's studio inside. The barn is surrounded by trees and vegetation.
Mason’s studio in Brattleboro, VT


In the spring, Mason and Kahn purchase a hillside farm on eleven acres in West Brattleboro, Vermont. Mason uses the combined blacksmith’s shop and chicken coop as a studio space and begins a routine of working there during summers.

Black and white portrait of a woman with a light skin tone, looking off to the right and smiling; NYC apartments are seen behind her.
Alice Trumbull Mason on Riverside Drive in Manhattan, late 1940s.


Emily’s mother, Alice Trumbull Mason, passes away in June following alcohol-related complications. 

Photograph from 1973 of the plains of Africa, in which a group of brown and white gazelles are grazing in the grass.
Mason’s personal photograph from their family trip to Africa, 1973.


In April, Mason and her family travel to Kenya, visiting Nairobi, Samburo, Lake Navasha, Malindi, Lamu Island, Kikurook, and Marsabit in the north.

A black and white photograph from the 1950s of an older man and a younger woman, both with light skin tones, looking at each other on a ship. On the right, there is a man with his back turned, looking out onto the water.
Emily Mason and Warwood Mason, early 1950s.


Mason’s father, Warwood Mason, dies in February.

Image of a typewritten press release of a 1977 exhibition.
The Landmark Gallery press release for “Emily Mason: Works on Paper,” April 23 – May 12, 1977.


An exhibition of Mason’s work opens at the Landmark Gallery, New York, Two more follow in 1978 and 1981.

Photograph from the late 1970s/early 1980s of a woman with a beige skin tone and brown ponytail wearing a burgundy turtleneck, inside of a classroom studio.
Emily Mason teaching a Hunter College night class, late 1970s/early 1980s.


Mason moves her studio out of the shared loft space on Broadway to West 20th Street. It is the important milestone of her first independent studio. In the fall, Mason begins teaching at CUNY Hunter College, where she will continue to teach for more than 30 years. Mason is awarded the Ranger Fund Purchase Prize by the National Academy.

Oil on paper work comprised of greys in the center, surrounded by green pastel-like marks at the top and bottom. Hints of purple, yellow, and blue are on the sides and bottom of the composition.
“Waxing Wind,” 1984, oil on paper, 20 ⅙ x 26 ⅙ in.


A solo exhibition opens at Grace Borgenicht Gallery in New York City. The Borgenicht Gallery shows Mason’s work again in 1987, 1990, and 1992.

Abstract print on paper with a red rectangular form in front of a grey and blue-green background. A thin yellow line curves alongside the bottom of the composition.
“Soft the Sun,” 1989, aquatint, soft ground, and carborundum print on paper, 19.75 x 15.5 in. Photography by Gavin Ashworth.


Mason is commissioned to produce a print by Associated American Artists, Mason discovers carborundum in printmaking. 

Mason and Kahn travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico to work at the renowned Tamarind Institute where she creates an edition as well as a series of monoprints and monotypes.

Monotype print comprised of light and deep pinks, light and deep purples, as well as hints of light green throughout.
“Untitled,” 1987, monotype on paper, 22 ¼ x 30 in.


Mason continues her experiments in printmaking, creating two series of monotypes at the Garner Tullis Workshop in Santa Barbara, CA. 

Black and white photograph of a smiling, middle-aged woman with a light skin tone, her right arm outstretched in the process of painting.
Emily Mason painting in her West 20th Street studio circa 1996, photographed by Rolf Gibbs.


Mason becomes a member of the MB Modern Gallery in New York City and exhibits there in 1997, 1999, and 2001.

Mono print on paper, consisting of white and red-orange layers, with a dominant yellow circular form in the center.
“First Frost,” 2001, carborundum monoprint on paper, 18 x 19 in.


Mason becomes a member of David Findlay Jr Fine Art, New York at Louis Newman’s invitation after the MB Modern Gallery closes.

Photograph from 2003 of a woman with a light skin tone at a long table with paint tubes, brushes, and painting supplies. On the far wall behind her, there are three abstract paintings in progress.
Emily Mason in her West 20th Street studio, 2003.


Mason has solo exhibitions at David Findlay Jr Fine Art and the Flynn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Abstract oil painting comprised of blues, purples, and magentas with a green vertical gesture on the right.
“The Wind Is Up,” 2004, oil on canvas, 44 x 28 in.


An exhibition of Mason’s prints is shown at the Scuola Internazionale di Grafica in Venice, Italy, and an exhibition of her paintings opens at the LewAllen Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Image of a book cover with a red abstract painting, and the red text "Emily Mason" and "The Fifth Element" at the bottom.
Cover of “The Fifth Element,” 2006.


Mason’s first monograph, Emily Mason: The Fifth Element, is published by George Braziller Press, featuring a comprehensive presentation of her career.

A solo exhibition of Mason’s prints and paintings opens at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center in Vermont, and exhibitions of paintings at the Ogunquit Museum in Maine and David Findlay Jr Fine Art.

Abstract oil painting with deep blue gestural brushstrokes. There is a reddish-orange form with a white mark in the center.
“Showtime,” 2006, oil on canvas, 20 x 22 in.


Emily Mason has a solo exhibition at LewAllen Gallery in Santa Fe, New Mexico. 

Image of a book cover with a red, yellow, and pink abstract painting, with text that reads "Emily Mason: Contemplating Color, May 2- June 1, 2008, LewAllen Contemporary, Opening Reception: Friday, May 2, 5:30-7:30 PM; Catalog Available with Essay by David Ebony.
Cover of the LewAllen Contemporary catalog for “Contemplating Color,” 2008.


Contemplating Color, a traveling exhibition organized by LewAllen Galleries, is shown at LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe and at The Art Museum of South Texas in Corpus Christi.

Image of a book cover showing a blue abstract painting with the text "Emily Mason" in light blue and "The Light in Spring" in small, white text at the bottom.
Cover of the catalog, “The Light in Spring,” 2015.


Emily Mason: The Light in Spring is published by UPNE. Predominantly a follow-up to to The Fifth Element, the monograph highlights works completed in the last decade, as well as Mason’s works with five master printers.

Abstract oil painting with orange, yellow, pink, and magenta transparent gestures.
“Summer Loft,” 2016, oil on canvas, 52 x 54 in.


Mason begins exhibiting at Ameringer|McEnery|Yohe (now Miles McEnery Gallery) in New York.

Abstract oil paint and pastel on grey paper comprised of dense stokes of yellow, purple, and orange.
Venezia, 1958, oil and pastel on paper, 19 ¼ x 26 ¼ in.


Inventing Downtown: Artist-Run Galleries in New York City 1952-1965 opens at the Grey Art Gallery in New York featuring work Mason had shown with the Area Gallery in the 60s.

Photograph from 2018 of a brown-shingled barn among the woods and greenery; the doors to the bar are open, revealing an older woman with a light skin-tone working on a light blue abstract painting.
Emily Mason painting in her Brattleboro studio, 2018. Photography by J. Farr.


Emily Mason: To Another Place opens at the Brattleboro Museum of Art in Vermont.

Photograph from 2018 of an older women with a light-skin tone in an art studio, infant of tubes of paint and brushes. Two abstract paintings hang on the wall behind her, a predominantly red on the left, and a predominantly blue on the right.
Emily Mason in her Brattleboro studio, 2018. Photography by J. Farr.


Color/Gesture: Early Work by Emily Mason, an exhibition featuring Mason’s early works on paper, opens at the Bennington Museum. 

Mason has her second exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery in New York. 

Mason and Kahn are each awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Arts from Marlboro College in Vermont.

Emily Mason passes away in Brattleboro, Vermont on December 10th and is laid to rest on the hill behind her house. Mason passed away in December.

Cover of the exhibition catalog "She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms"; there is an abstract print on the left of deep blues and yellows, and on the right there is white text on a black background that reads: "Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason, November 22, 2020-March 21, 2021, Curated by Robert Wolterstorff, Kenneth Silver, and H.S. Miller, Bruce Museum, Greenwich, Connecticut
Cover of the exhibition pamphlet, “She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason,” at the Bruce Museum.


Mason is honored as Centurion Master by the Century Association and is provided space for a survey of her canvases and works on paper. 

“She Sweeps with Many-Colored Brooms”: Paintings and Prints by Emily Mason opens at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT.

Abstract oil painting with energetic brushstrokes of reds, greens, and yellows. Colors overlaps and bleed together through drips and staining.
“Untitled (Vermont),” 1985, oil on canvas, 52 x 52 in., private collection.


Chelsea Paintings, a post-humous, historical exhibition featuring work made by Mason in her loft studio opens at Miles McEnery Gallery, New York. Mason’s work and legacy is represented by Miles McEnery Gallery to the present-day.