b. 1908, Chelyabinsk, Russia
d. 2002, Glen Head, New York
Esphyr Slobodkina was a Russian-born author, illustrator, and pioneer of early American abstraction. Slobodkina immigrated to New York at the age of twenty and entered the National Academy of Design in 1929. At the Academy, she met Ilya Bolotowsky, whom she married in 1933. She became a founding member of the American Abstract Artists group in 1936, which helped pave the way for the acceptance of abstract art in the United States. Slobodkina was a forerunner of hard-edge painting and her work often incorporated juxtaposing planar shapes in harmonious arrangements of color and form. In 1937 she met the noted author Margaret Wise Brown, who encouraged Slobodkina to illustrate children’s stories. Slobodkina published the children’s book Caps for Sale in 1940, which remains a best-selling storybook. In the same year, A.E. Gallatin held Slobodkina’s first major one-person exhibition at his influential Gallery of Living Art. Before her death in 2002, Slobodkina redesigned her home as a mini-museum and reading room for children, and for ten years it functioned as a place where guests could view more than 500 works of art. The charitable Slobodkina Foundation continues to preserve the legacy of Slobodkina’s prolific, multifaceted career.