Eva Hesse Detail of Untitled 1967

Eva Hesse
Detail of Untitled 1967
Drawing on paper
27.8 x 21.6 cm
© Tate © Estate of Eva Hesse


Eva Hesse is born in Hamburg, Germany. Her parents are Ruth and Wilhelm Hesse, a lawyer.


Eva and her sister Helen are sent to a children’s home in Holland to escape Nazi pogroms against the Jews.


Reunited, the Hesse family travel to London, and then to New York. Wilhelm Hesse trains to become an insurance broker. Over the next few years, Ruth Hesse sinks into severe depression.


Eva Hesse becomes an American citizen. Her parents are divorced, and Wilhelm remarries.


Ruth Hesse commits suicide.


Eva studies advertising design at the Pratt Institute of Design, New York. Dissatisfied, she abandons the course the following year.


Enrols at the Cooper Union to study fine art.


Takes BFA course at Yale School of Art and Architecture, where she studies painting with Josef Albers.


Returns to New York, and continues to paint. She supports herself by working in a jewellery store, and as a textile designer.


Meets artist Sol LeWitt, who would become a friend and important influence.


Hesse’s drawings and watercolours are included in several group exhibitions. She marries the sculptor Tom Doyle.


Hesse’s first solo exhibition, a small group of drawings, is held at the Allan Stone Gallery in New York. She moves to a loft in the Bowery district of New York, where her neighbours include artists Robert Ryman, Robert and Sylvia Mangold and Lucy Lippard.


Friedrich Arnhard Scheidt, a German collector, offers to support Doyle and Hesse in Germany for a year, in exchange for a selection of the work produced. They settle in Kettwig an der Ruhr, near Essen, with the top floor of an abandoned textile factory as their studio. Hesse travels, makes contact with European artists, and works intensively. Initially she draws machine parts and pieces of cord left lying around in the factory. She then uses these objects as materials to make her first brightly painted constructions.


Hesse makes her last paintings. Her new constructions are shown in a one-person exhibition in Düsseldorf. After returning to New York, she concentrates on making sculptures.


Hesse and Doyle separate. Hesse’s reputation as a sculptor grows, and she wins praise for works shown in group exhibitions Abstract Inflationism and Stuffed Expressionism and Eccentric Abstraction. Grid patterns become an important element in Hesse’s sculpture, reflecting her engagement with minimalism. Wilhelm Hesse dies in Switzerland.


Hesse makes a number of works in series, or using mathematical progressions. She also begins to use latex in her sculptures, initially as a casting material, then applying it to the surface of works with a brush. Later in the year, she uses commercial fabricators for the first time, commissioning Arco Metals to build a steel cube structure for Accession II.


Hesse creates her first fibreglass sculptures, aided by Douglas Johns, a partner at Aegis Reinforced Plastics who becomes her technical adviser and assistant. A solo exhibition Eva Hesse: Chain Polymers is held at the Fischbach Gallery, New York. Hesse begins teaching at the School of Visual Arts, New York.


Takes part in When Attitudes Become Form, an influential exhibition that opens in Switzerland and travels internationally. In April she collapses, and is diagnosed with a brain tumour. She is operated on twice, and undergoes radiation and chemotherapy treatments. The sculpture Expanded Expansion appears in the exhibition Anti-Illusion: Procedures/Materials at the Whitney Museum. Hesse attends the opening in a wheelchair.


Although increasingly weak, Hesse continues to work on her sculpture. In March, she re-enters hospital for a third brain tumour operation. She dies on May 29, at the age of 34.