Nancy Spero

Rejecting postwar trends towards Pop art and abstract impressionism, figurative artist Nancy Spero instead drew inspiration from tribal totems in Chicago’s Field Museum. Spero earned a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1949 and spent a year studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. In 1951 she married fellow artist Leon Golub. After a period of experimentation with collage, gouache, and cutouts in the 1960s, Spero created the Codex Artaud, scrolls blending text with images from Egyptian, Roman, and Celtic sources, from 1971–1972. She followed this with Torture of Women from 1974–1976, a feminist series. Dedicating herself to the ideals of women as both artists and protagonists in art, she co-founded the AIR (Artists in Residence) Gallery in 1972, the first cooperative gallery of women artists, and focused primarily on women in her own art. In 1994 the MIT List Visual Arts Center created a travelling exhibition, Leon Golub and Nancy Spero: War and Memory, and the following year the artists were jointly awarded the Hiroshima Art Prize. Spero, whose artwork graces the permanent collections of museums around the world, also created a mosaic for the Lincoln Center subway station called “Artemis, Acrobats, Divas, and Dancers.”

Topics: Feminism, Painting

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American artist Nancy Spero often used women as protagonists in her artwork. She is pictured here in 1974 in New York, where two years earlier she joined with five other women to establish the first cooperative gallery of female artists in the United States.

Courtesy of Nancy Spero

Date of Birth

Cleveland, OH
United States

Date of Death
Artist, Founder

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Nancy Spero." (Viewed on January 24, 2020) <>.


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