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Nancy Spero Edit Profile

visual artist

In a career lasting over fifty years as both an artist and activist, Nancy Spero focused relentlessly on contemporary political and social issues. Spero chronicled wars and apocalyptic violence as well as articulating visions of ecstatic rebirth and the celebratory cycles of life. Eschewing the current of Abstract Expressionism, Spero narrated simple stories to explore universal themes.


Ethnicity: Nancy was born to parents who were both born in the United States

Spero was born in Cleveland, Ohio to parents who were both born in the United States. Her father — Henry Spero — had a business buying and selling printing presses and her mother — Sadie Susselman — helped with the business later in her life. In 1927 her family moved to Chicago, where she grew up.

She had one sister, Carol Newman.


Bachelor of Fine Arts, School Art Institute Chicago, 1949. Student, Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1950. Student, Atelier Andre l'Hote, Paris, 1950.


After Spero's graduation from the Art Institute in 1949 she continues to study painting in Paris at the École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts and at the Atelier of Andre Lhote, an early Cubist painter, teacher and critic.

In 1950 she returns to the United States and marries the painter Leon Golub, afterwards the two artists settle in Chicago.

From 1956 to 1957, Spero and Golub lived and painted in Italy, while raising their two sons, Stephen and Philip. The family moves to Paris in 1959, where Nancy steeps herself in European existentialism and produced a series of oil paintings she had begun in Chicago. In 1961 Spero's third son is born in Paris. Year later Nancy has her first solo exhibition at Galerie Bretau.

In 1964 family returns to New York, where they remained to live and work.

During the whole 1960s Spero's art is in transition: she paints the oil series The Paris Black Paintings: Lovers, Prostitutes, Mothers and Children, Monsters. In response to the Vietnam War and the civil rights movement, she becomes a political activist and a feminist. Also being affected by images of the war broadcast nightly on television and violence evident in the street Spero begins her War Series (1966-1970). War Series are small gouache and inks on paper, executed rapidly, represented the obscenity and destruction of war.

Being and activist and early feminist, Spero becomes a member of the Art Workers Coalition and Women Artist in Revolution. In 1972 she is a founding member of Artist in Residence (A.I.R), the first women's cooperative gallery. AIR Gallery opened in New York City in September 1972 with a group show of its founding members.

In 1974 Nancy Spero choses to focus on themes involving women's representation in various cultures, as participants in history and as symbols in art, literature and myth. In the 1970s, Nancy Spero often incorporated language into her work, using a variety of sources. In 1974 she produces the series Torture of Women — the long scroll that interweave oral testimonies with images of women throughout history.

During the 1980s Nancy Spero continues her commitment to woman, participates in Ad Hoc Women Artists’ Committee, and Artists’ Call Against U.S. Intervention in Central America.

In 1987 Spero is traveling retrospective exhibitions in the United States and United Kingdom. Beginning in the late 1980s, she transforms the scroll format into site-specific wall murals. By 1988 she develops her first large-scale wall installations, often using stamps rather than paint.

In 1993 Spero, among a number of artists, was invited to make an installation for the opening of the renovated Jewish Museum in New York.

In 1995 Nancy Spero and Leon Golub were jointly awarded the third Hiroshima Art Prize and retrospective exhibition.

In October 18, 2009 Nancy Spero dies in New York.


  • Nancy Spero is a founding member of Artist in Residence (A.I.R), the first women's cooperative gallery


Nancy Spero was an early feminist and activist of women rights.


Member of American Academy Arts and Letters (academy 2004).

  • Art Workers Coalition

    1968 - 1969

  • Women Artists in Revolution


  • Artists in Residence , United States



Henry Spero - United States

1898 - 1979, born in Cleveland

Sadie Susselman - United States

1903 - 1989, born in Scranton, Pennsylvania

Carol Newman

born in 1928

Leon Golub - United States - painter
Leon Golub - Husband of Nancy Spero

Leon Golub was an American painter. He was among Spero's peers at the Art Institute, he had returned from service in World War II. They married in 1950 and collaborated together throughout their life.