About the Artist
Emily Mason was an American Abstract painter and printmaker who created colorful canvasses during a career that spanned more than 60 years.
Early Life and Education
Emily Mason was born in New York City in 1932. Her father, Warwood Mason was a ship’s captain who later became an executive at the American Export Lines shipping company. Her mother, Alice Trumbull Mason, was an abstract painter, and a founder of the American Abstract Artists group in 1935, whose studied, geometric works had a profound influence on her daughter.
Mason attended the High School of Music & Art from 1946 to 1950, attended Bennington College for two years, then transferred to Cooper Union, from which she graduated in 1955. A year later, she was awarded a Fulbright grant to study in Italy, at the Accademia di Belle Arti, but found the classes too structured.
Before leaving for her year abroad, she met painter Wolf Kahn, who later joined her in Venice. They married in 1957. The works that Mason did that year earned her a second grant, and the couple was able to enjoy another year abroad.
Career and Family Life
Mason returned to Manhattan in 1958. She had her first solo exhibition at the Area Gallery in New York City in 1960 and her career took off.
Mason said that she never planned a painting in advance. She compared her method to playing chess; “Pick it up, make a move, wait, let time go in between,” she said. “Then I know what to do.”
In 1968, Mason and Wolf bought a farm in Brattleboro, Vermont, where they spent more than fifty summers, painting and relaxing. The couple had two daughters.
Mason began teaching painting at Hunter College in 1979 and continued to do so for more than thirty years.
Her works became bigger and bolder in the 1990s and she began to work on larger canvasses.
Emily Mason died at her home in Brattleboro on December 10, 2019 at age 87, just three months before the death of Wolf Kahn, her husband of more than sixty years.
In 1979 she was awarded the Ranger Fund Purchase Prize by the National Academy.
Mason’s work is the subject of two books by David Ebony, managing editor of Art in America magazine: Emily Mason: The Fifth Element, published in 2006 and Emily Mason: The Light in Spring, published in 2015.
A documentary about her life, Emily Mason: A Painting Experience, was released on PBS on Nov 10, 2017.
Her paintings are included in the collections of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the National Academy Museum, the Bennington Museum, the Springfield Museum, and the New Britain Museum of American Art, among others.