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Katherine Bradford enjoys late-career success after rejecting the status of a political wife

26 Apr 2023

Katherine Bradford, Large Ocean Painting (2016). Copyright the artist, courtesy Hall Collection

Katherine Bradford, the artist who had to wait until she was 80 until her first solo museum show, is trending on HENI News.

Katherine Bradford’s HENI Score—a unique artist sentiment index—increased 186% as an exhibition of the in-demand artist’s paintings travelled from Maine to Seattle. The American artist’s late-career success is reflected in her auction sales, which have totaled an impressive $1.26m over the past two years.

To find out more about Katherine Bradford and gain a greater insight into her work and her market, see her HENI Dashboard, a special feature of HENI News.

Bradford, who was born in 1942, is best known for her colorful, expressive figurative paintings, which turn everyday activities, be it motherhood or swimming, into something strange and other worldly.

Bradford's "Mother Paintings" are a highlight of her first solo museum show, which opened at the Portland Museum of Art in Maine in 2022, before travelling to the Frye Art Museum in Seattle. The retrospective underlined the artist's ability to convey everyday, universal experiences in an uncanny way. Bradford’s paintings often depict featureless, sometimes androgynous figures, adrift in color-saturated settings.

Bradford’s auction sales are catching up with her increased recognition in the art world. A recent work, High Tide Swimmers (2023) sold for $132,300 at Christie's in New York, more than twice the high estimate. While Bike Riders Night (2016), sold at Phillips in Hong Kong for $129,400, more than one and a half times the high estimate.

Bradford painted for decades without gallery representation until 2014 when she joined Adams and Ollman in Portland, Oregon. Now, she is also represented by Canada of New York, which presented her work in its Frieze Los Angeles viewing room, as well as Kaufmann Repetto, Milan and New York, which presented her paintings at Art Basel in Basel and in Miami Beach. Collectors Andrew and Christine Hall are among the early fans of her work, showing it at their Hall Art Foundation, Vermont.

Bradford only started painting at the age of 30 in the 1970s. She then moved to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in the 1980s. She now divides her time between Maine and New York. Bradford told W Magazine’s Laura van Straaten, how she turned her back on her previous life as a “political wife”. Post-divorce, and while a mother to young children, she doubled down on becoming an artist. “She got pushback: from her husband, her children and her own parents," Bradford recalled. "She has often quipped that coming out as an artist in her 30s was much harder than later ‘coming out as queer’ in her 40s.”