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Dorothy Fratt

Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage

Feb 3 - Jul 21, 2024

Color Mirage is the first major U.S. museum exhibition on the prolific, yet underrecognized, American painter Dorothy Fratt.



Dorothy Fratt: Color Mirage is the first major U.S. museum exhibition on the prolific, yet underrecognized, American painter Dorothy Fratt (1923–2017). Born in Washington, D.C., Fratt showed prodigious talent in art as early as age 9 and garnered much attention at age 15 when her painting won first place in an exhibition at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She received numerous educational scholarships, as well as apprenticeships with cubist painter Karl Knaths and landscape and figure painter Nicolai S. Cikovsky. Originally joining the Washington Color School in the 1950s, Fratt left to forge her own style of abstraction that was more closely tied to the  Southwest United States after she moved to Arizona in 1958. Although Fratt’s paintings are often classified as color field and abstract expressionist, her use of color and expression of her surroundings evolved into a prolific body of work that idiosyncratically emotes landscape, atmosphere, gesture, and mood on her own terms.  

Spanning more than five decades of the artist’s oeuvre, the exhibition will present a selection of foundational early works and ephemera alongside numerous paintings that exemplify Fratt’s vibrant and distinct style of abstraction. The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalog in collaboration with Radius Books to present new scholarly essays on the artist; unpublished writing by the artist; an extensive biography; artist conversations with Teresa Baker, Caroline Kent, and Rebecca Ward; and illustrations of artworks and ephemera. 

Organized by Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and co-curated by Jennifer McCabe, director and chief curator, and Lauren R. O’Connell, curator of contemporary art.

Generous support provided by Title Partners Walter and Karla Goldschmidt Foundation and The Virginia M. Ullman Foundation, Signature Partner Yares Art, New York, and Supporting Partner Pazo Fine Art, and Supporting Sponsors Nancy and Robert Kravetz Philanthropic Fund, John Armstrong and Joan Prior, and Christy and Charlie Jerz.




Dorothy Fratt (1923–2017)

Post-war abstractionist Dorothy Fratt was born in Washington, D.C. to Hugh and Martha Miller. Fratt began her artistic career at the age of fifteen when she won first prize in an exhibition at the Corcoran School of Art and began a mentorship with American Cubist painter Karl Knaths. In 1940, she attended the Corcoran Gallery School of Art and studied with Russian-American figurative painter Nikolai Cikovski. She went on to study at Mount Vernon Seminary and College from 1940 to 1942 with American art historian Agnes DeLano and The Phillips Memorial Gallery Art School from 1942 to 1943, again under the tutelage of Knaths. From 1946 to 1951, Fratt taught at Mount Vernon College. In 1958, she moved to Phoenix, Arizona, with her first husband and three sons. It was in Arizona, where Fratt began teaching private classes and solidified her distinct style of abstraction and mastery of color. After her marriage to her second husband Curtis “Bud” Cooper, a multi-generation Arizona rancher and farmer, Fratt spent her summers at the family ranch in Williams, AZ, where she often hosted groups of friends and artists. In 1972, Fratt worked with the City of Scottsdale to commission a major public artwork by American sculptor Louise Nevelson. Fratt’s circle of artist friends in Arizona included Argentinean-American sculptor Geny Dignac, Cuban painter and sculptor José Ygnacio Bermudez, American painter Lew Davis, and American painter Philip Campbell Curtis, among many others. Fratt had solo exhibitions at Tuscon Art Center (1964), Phoenix Art Museum (1964), and Scottsdale Center for the Arts (1980). Her work was shown in group exhibitions at U.S. institutions including Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1948, 1964); Roswell Museum of Art, New Mexico (1961); and California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, California (1965). Posthumously, her work was introduced to a European audience in a group exhibition at Museum Art Plus in Donaueschingen, Germany (2018-19), followed by a solo exhibition at Stadtische Galerie in der Reithalle, Paderborn, Germany (2020). Her work can be found in numerous private and corporate collections and has been collected by numerous institutions including Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio; Corcoran Museum, Washington, D.C.; New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe; Palm Springs Art Museum, California; Museum Art Plus and Stadtische Galerie in der Reithalle, both in Germany; Arizona State University Art Museum, Museum of Northern Arizona, Phoenix Art Museum, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and Tucson Museum of Art, all in Arizona. 

Photo: Jose Bermúdez

Dorothy Fratt: Works

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Dorothy Fratt: Works is published by Radius Books in conjunction with the first major US museum exhibition on the prolific, yet underrecognized, American painter Dorothy Fratt (1923–2017). The artist’s monograph includes a selection of foundational early works alongside numerous paintings that exemplify Fratt’s vibrant and distinct style of abstraction. The book also features new scholarly essays, an extended biography, and a conversation with exhibition curators and contemporary artists Teresa Baker, Caroline Kent, and Rebecca Ward.


Artwork by Dorothy Fratt
Essays by Lauren R. O’Connell and Jennifer McCabe
Illustrated biography by Dr. Ashley Busby

9.75 x 11.75 inches
224 pages / 70 images
ISBN: 9781955161374

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