Suzy Frelinghuysen was a well-known and respected artist during her time
Learn more about her life and work
By Beth Hamilton
Suzy Frelinghuysen was born to an affluent family in Newark, New Jersey in 1911. She was a descendent of several prominent political leaders in the country, and enjoyed a privileged upbringing through her connections. Frelinghuysen received a formal education at Miss Fine’s school of Princeton, where she developed an interest in art and music. Despite her early artistic inclinations, she received no formal training in the subject. Frelinghuysen pursued a career in music with more intent; at the age of eighteen she moved to New York to become an opera singer.
In 1935, Frelinghuysen married the abstract artist, George L.K. Morris. The two were equally prominent both socially and economically. Together, the couple continued to prosper and had homes on the Upper East Side and near the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts. Morris was an established artist at the time of his marriage to Frelinghuysen. After studying at Yale University, and the Art Students League, Morris traveled to Paris to study the French Cubists. After the couple wed, Frelinghuysen developed a more serious interest in art through the influence of her husband. In 1937, she joined the American Abstract Artists (AAA), a group co-founded by Morris to promote abstract art in the country.
Frelinghuysen imbued the lessons of abstraction and Cubism in her art from this period. Within her artistic circle, she was known for her work in collage. Frelinghuysen often layered clippings of ephemeral material, such as newspapers, music sheets, and product labels with her Cubist forms. In Composition, a page from the French art publication Plastique is layered on the board beneath fragmented forms of saturated colors. Morris was an art critic and contributor to Plastique, and the publication appears in several works by Frelinghuysen. The names “Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, and Jean Arp” are visible through the broken forms and reference the source of her avant-garde inspiration. Frelinghuysen used a similar bold and cheerful palette of purple, blue, and grey on several collage works from this period.
Frelinghuysen was a well-known and respected artist during her time through her affiliation with the AAA. She was additionally known as one of the “Park Avenue Cubists” along with Morris, Albert E. Gallatin, and Charles G. Shaw, for their wealth and social status. In 1937, her work was acquired by Gallatin for his Museum of Living Art; she was the first female artist to be featured in the collection. In 1943, Peggy Guggenheim exhibited a collage by Frelinghuysen in the Art of This Century Gallery. She was later included in the Whitney annual exhibition in 1944. Frelinghuysen continued to perform as an opera singer, and enjoyed great success in the New York City Opera following World War II.
Cover image: Suzy Frelinghuysen, American, 1911–1988. Composition, 1942. Oil and collage on board laid down on panel, 16 x 12 inches Signed and dated on the frame