Grace Hartigan was born on March 28th, 1922 in Newark, New Jersey. She was the oldest of four children and very close to her father. During her childhood she was never encouraged to practice painting and drawing, but she did developed a very over active imaginations thanks to the free spirited lifestyle of her father. Hartigan was married at the age of 17 to Robert Jachens. He was drafted for WWII in 1942. While her husband was away Hartigan enrolled in the Newark College of Engineering where she studied mechanical drafting. During the remainder of the war she worked as a draftsman for airplane design to support her family.
While working as a draftsman, Hartigan made time to study painting on the side with Isaac Muse. He helped broaden her artistic vision and perspective introducing her to Henri Matisse and Kimon Nicolaides. The influence of the two can be seen in her work. Hartigan earned her place in the art world through the New York School of artists that formed in the 40's and 50's. Her circle of friends included the Pollocks, Larry Rivers, the De Koonings, Frank O' Hara along with many other individuals of the time. She was the only woman artist to be apart of the MOMA's historical The New American Painting which toured the USA and Europe in the late 1950's.
In the 1960's Hartigan moved to Baltimore. She resided there until her death in November of 2008. While living in Maryland she exhibited in many group shows and held numerous solo exhibitions. She also began to teach at MICA where she eventually became head of the MFA Program.
Now a majority of Hartigan's works are held in the Metropolitan Museum and the Whitney Museum of Art. The Maryland Institute College of Art also houses many of her later works.