Honoring Maria Frank Abrams

Maria and her cousin Vera Frank crossing the Atlantic, January 1948. Photo courtesy of the artist’s estate.

Maria Frank Abrams (1924-2013) came to Seattle in 1948 as a survivor of the Holocaust, then built an illustrious career as one of the most celebrated artists in the region. Her body of work includes paintings, works on paper, public art, set and costume design, and mosaics, reflecting influences from the University of Washington’s School of Art where she earned her Bachelor of Fine Art summa cum laude in 1951. Later she also earned her Master of Library Science.

After graduating with her BFA, Abrams benefitted from the advice and critique of Northwest School luminary Mark Tobey, expanding her use of materials and stylistic abstraction. Tobey introduced her to his gallerist, Otto Seligman, who then represented Abrams until his death. At the same time, Abrams began showing extensively in solo and group exhibitions at regional venues such as the Seattle Art Museum, the Henry Art Gallery, and the Frye Art Museum. She gained broad national and international attention in subsequent years. In 2022, the Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds, WA mounted a solo retrospective of her work, the third of her career.

Maria Frank Abrams. The Four Seasons, 1976. Oil on linen. 47 x 352 inches. King County Public Library, Mercer Island, WA. King County Public Art Collection. Photo: Omri Abram

In 1976, Abrams was one of the first artists commissioned to create a site-specific artwork for the King County Public Art Collection (KCPAC) through the King County Arts Commission’s New Proposal Fund, which invited artists to submit proposals for new work in public spaces. Abrams selected her neighborhood library on Mercer Island, where her mural The Four Seasons is still on display.

This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary of Abrams’ death, we are beginning the process of providing needed cleaning, conservation, and restoration work for The Four Seasons, as well as her other pieces in the KCPAC: Divided Sky, 1977 and Wintry Sky, 1985.

Maria Frank Abrams, At exhibition opening, Vizualart Gallery Budapest, October 29, 1992. Photo courtesy of the artist’s estate.

With increasing anti-Semitism across the globe, we are proud to invest in the preservation of these important artworks by an exceptional regional Jewish artist. In the words of Maria Frank Abrams, “Practically everyone in the Western world has a responsibility for what happened to us Jews during those years…one of the things which is very important to me is to talk about my family who perished, to make a note, a mark, for them.”

By preserving the testimonies, stories, artworks, writing, and other creative achievements of Holocaust survivors, we can remember the power of humans to heal and what is at stake if we chose to forget.

“During a special meeting on Tuesday, January 30, the King County Council presented a proclamation of the Council’s condemnation of antisemitism in recognition of Holocaust Remembrance Day… King County is committed to showing support and pursuing justice for the Jewish community, especially during a time where xenophobia and white nationalism have become increasingly pervasive throughout the country.” – Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles

For more information:
Maria Frank Abrams website
Burning Forest: The Art of Maria Frank Abrams by Matthew Kangas (2010)
Discover a Legend by Tim Appelo, City Art Magazine (2010)