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Amaranth Ehrenhalt, Abstract Expressionist, Dies at 93

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This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Caradoc Ehrenhalt would often accompany his mother, the artist Amaranth Roslyn Ehrenhalt, on her visits to the Louvre in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and other leading museums and galleries. She enjoyed taking a close-up look at the works, many of which were by artists she had known personally.

Mr. Ehrenhalt loved those trips. The museum guards? Not so much.

“She would get very close to the art and point out details and techniques, her finger getting close,” her son said by email. The guards would rush over, issuing that don’t-touch warning.

Ms. Ehrenhalt was a multifaceted artist best known for her paintings. She was part of the second generation of Abstract Expressionists, working first in New York in the early 1950s, then in Paris, producing canvasses full of vibrant colors.

“Her work reminded me of the scorching heat of the summer of my native Brazil,” Denise Carvalho, a curator and art scholar, wrote in White Hot Magazine in 2018.

Ms. Ehrenhalt died on March 16 in Manhattan. She was 93. The cause was Covid-19, her son said.

Ms. Ehrenhalt spent much of her life in Europe, which left her less well known in the United States than many of her contemporaries, but her work, which included prints, tapestries and mosaics, has been gaining new attention in recent years. She was still making art in her East Harlem apartment in her 90s.

Rosyln Ehrenhalt — she added the name Amaranth early in her career — was born on Jan. 15, 1928, in Newark and grew up in Philadelphia. Her father, Jack, was in sales, and her mother, Sylvia (Justman) Ehrenhalt, kept his books.

She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951 with a bachelor of fine arts degree. She had also taken a weekly course at the Barnes Foundation near Philadelphia, whose founder, Albert C. Barnes, had a substantial collection of art from Paris, which piqued her interest in the art scene there.

After graduating she lived and traveled in Europe for a time, then tried New York.

“In my Greenwich Village walk-up (toilet in the hall, bathtub next to the kitchen sink), I painted on the floor, not by choice à la Jackson Pollock, but for lack of a table,” she wrote in a 2012 article in Vogue.

Soon, though, she would trade the life of a starving artist in Greenwich Village for the life of a starving artist in France. A friend whose portrait she had painted invited her to come along on a three-week trip to Paris as payment; it became an indefinite stay.

She became a regular at Le Select, a cafe that attracted an artistic crowd, and rubbed elbows with Yves Klein, Alberto Giacometti and other artists. Once, when a jacket and pair of working pants she had bought at a flea market shrank too much to be wearable — Ms. Ehrenhalt was strikingly tall — she gave them to a smaller artist friend, Joan Mitchell.

A marriage to a fellow painter produced two children but ended in divorce. Her years in Paris were sometimes difficult, but friends and benefactors gave her support. Sonia Delaunay, the artist and designer, was impressed enough with her work that she arranged for Ms. Ehrenhalt to charge art supplies to her account.

“I didn’t have money,” Ms. Ehrenhalt told Woman’s Art Journal last year, “but I always had paint.”

While based in Paris Ms. Ehrenhalt returned frequently to New York, and also spent time in Los Angeles. Her works were exhibited in numerous galleries in France and California over the years, as well as in New York by the Anita Shapolsky Gallery, which represents her. In 2008 she settled in New York for good.

In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter, Sonce Leroux.

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