Dorothy Fratt American, 1923-2017


A significant but often overlooked player in the Washington Color School and Color Field movement, Dorothy Fratt is best known for her personal and expressive use of color. Born in Washington, DC, in 1923, Fratt showed an early talent for art and was awarded numerous scholarships to study art at DC-area schools, including Mount Vernon College, the Corcoran School of Art, and the Phillips Memorial Gallery Art School. She received her first prize at age fifteen from the Corcoran School of Art and had her first solo show in 1946 at the Washington City Library. That same year she began a six-year teaching position at Mount Vernon College for Women.


Working in Washington, DC, during the 1950s, when the Washington Color School was first gaining momentum, Fratt explored many of the same artistic options that then preoccupied her peers, and, like them, she sought to treat color as an expressive means in its own right, independent from representation. Despite the advantages of being part of a thriving art scene, in 1958 Fratt moved to Phoenix, Arizona, removing herself from the crosscurrents of East Coast art centers so that she could focus on developing her own visual lexicon and style.


From the 1960s onward, Fratt showed extensively in both solo and group exhibitions—largely in the Southwest but also back in Washington, DC, including a major retrospective Dorothy Fratt: 1970­–1980, at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts in 1980. Her work has also been features in numerous group exhibitions at such major institutions as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington DC; the California Palace of the Legion Honor, San Francisco; and the Phoenix Art Museum. A prolific painter, she tirelessly honed her skills and is now recognized as a master of color. Following her death in 2017 in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the age of 93, interest in Fratt’s work has grown, and today examples can be found in the collections of the New Mexico Museum of Art; Phoenix Art Museum; Museum of Northern Arizona; Tucson Museum of Art; the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art; the Hilliard Art Museum; the Palm Springs Art Museum; the Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; Städtische Galerie, Paderborn; and Museum Art Plus, Germany.