Betty Parsons

American (1900–1982)

Betty Parsons was an artist and art gallery owner who can be credited with helping to start the careers of some of the most important artists of the 20th century, including Mark Rothko, Ellsworth Kelly, Jackson Pollack and Clyfford Still, among others.

Brought up in a wealthy family, Parsons was sent to boarding school in Europe at a young age and when she was thirteen, she attended the New York Armory Show, an event that introduced her to the world of art and inspired her to become an artist. Eventually, Parsons moved to Paris and enrolled in art school where she met many famous artists, writers and performers. In 1933 she returned to America and settled in California where she tried to earn a living teaching art classes.

In 1936 Parsons went back to New York City where she was given an exhibition at the Midtown Galleries. As a result of the exhibition she was given a job, thus beginning a long and influential career as an art dealer. In 1946 she opened The Betty Parsons Gallery and for the next thirty years, she promoted the careers of numerous young artists.

Parsons’s own art became more abstract as she grew older and toward the end of her life she began to make Constructions from bits of wood and other materials that washed up on the beach near her home on Long Island. Parsons died in 1982 at the age of 82.