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Ruth Gikow

Ruth Gikow’s figurative paintings and murals offered her a means to comment on society and urban life.Gikow originally sought a career in fashion, but after studying under greats like John Steuart Curry and Austin Purvis, Jr. at Cooper Union, she switched to painting and chose to depict the urgent bustle of the city. Inspired by Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, Gikow created murals through the Federal Arts Project of the WPA. Her first commission, in 1939, was a mural for the children’s ward of the Bronx Hospital. During WWII, however, commissions were scarce and Gikow earned a living designing textiles and working as an art director at an advertising agency. In 1946 she returned to painting, depicting beauty pageants, conversations in cafes, and other human drama in abstract forms that carried a sense of movement. In the 1960s and 1970s her art became more political, depicting scenes from the civil rights and anti-war movements. Gikow’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, among many others.

More on: Painting
Date of Birth
January 16, 1915
Place of Birth
Date of Death
April 2, 1982

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Ruth Gikow ." (Viewed on December 17, 2018) <>.


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