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Isabel Bishop (American, 1902–1988) Noon Hour, 1935 Published 1946 in an edition of 250 Etching 1935 6 7/8 x 4 13/16 inches Courtesy of Pia Gallo

Exhibition Spotlight: Isabel Bishop

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Isabel Bishop
(American, 1902–1988)
Noon Hour, 1935
Published 1946 in an edition of 250
Etching
1935
Courtesy of Pia Gallo

Possessing a keen sense of observation and self-assured technique, Isabel Bishop was one of the foremost American women artists of the early to mid-twentieth century and stands among the very best of all artists that remained dedicated to realism in a period increasingly dominated by abstraction. Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Bishop was reared in Detroit, Michigan, where she began her formal art training before moving to New York at sixteen to study illustration at the New York School of Applied Design for Women. Two years later she enrolled at the Art Students League to advance her fine art practice. There, working with Kenneth Hayes Miller, Robert Henri, and Guy Pène du Bois, she began to focus on scenes of New York City’s bustling street life. Occupying a studio in downtown’s Union Square at Broadway and Fourteenth Street, Bishop found ample subjects for her art in one of the busiest commercial and entertainment districts in all of Manhattan. Like Reginald Marsh, a friend and contemporary with whom she traveled to Europe to study the Old Masters, Bishop captured the character, mood, and movement of human interactions through spontaneous gestural strokes and seemingly effortless draftsmanship.

Noon Hour is among Bishop’s best known and most desirable prints. Created in 1935 with the unfulfilled intention of editioning it in forty impressions, it was finally published a decade later by Associated American Artists (AAA), an organization dedicated to providing original art to collectors of modest financial means, outside the traditional gallery system. Artists were paid a flat fee of $200 to prepare an image on copperplate or lithograph stone, which would be printed by AAA in an edition of 250, then marketed and sold at department stores across the country and through mail order for $5 each. Leading American artists of the day including Peggy Bacon, Thomas Hart Benton, John Steuart Curry, Mabel Dwight, Doris Lee, Reginald Marsh, and Grant Wood produced outstanding prints for AAA. Bishop’s image, which she revisited in a 1939 oil painting, features a fashionably dressed pair of women in conversation, perhaps on a lunch break from work or during a respite from shopping. With arms linked and gazes fixed on one another, the couple appears sculpturesque and monumental in spite of their linear treatment and the sheet’s small scale. Other AAA copies of Noon Hour are held in many important collections including the Library of Congress, Philadelphia Museum, San Francisco Museums, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and Yale University.

 

Isabel Bishop (American, 1902–1988) Noon Hour, 1935 Published 1946 in an edition of 250 Etching 1935 6 7/8 x 4 13/16 inches Courtesy of Pia Gallo
Elizabeth Murray (American, 1940–2007) Deep Blue C, 2001 Edition: 50, SP 9 14-color lithograph/screenprint, hand-cut  29 1/4 x 44 1/4 inches Courtesy of Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl

Exhibition Spotlight: Elizabeth Murray

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Much of Elizabeth Murray’s artwork references domestic still lives: coffee cups, utensils, furniture, eggs over easy. But as David Hickey noted in his 2005 essay about her printmaking at Gemini G.E.L., these still lives “are anything but still.” Her artwork is a “kind of graphic cubism” that expands beyond the traditional framework that had once contained the biomorphic inventions of Joan Miro, the riotous color of Henri Matisse and the fractured representations of Pablo Picasso.

Trained as a painter, first at the Art Institute of Chicago and then at Mills College in Oakland, California, Murray headed to New York after completing her MFA. She first gained acclaim as one of the featured artists in the annual exhibition Contemporary American Painting held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972. Over the years, she has held sixty solo exhibitions including a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2005. In 1999, she was awarded the MacArthur Foundation “genius” award.

Murray’s shaped canvases literally explode from the wall as passionate and enthusiastic translations of the everyday made extraordinary. Her pieces are not windows into an illusionistic two-dimensional space but rather they are the actual spaces where her invented objects exist. They suggest a conflation of cartoon-inspired surrealism (think Max and Dave Fleischer, the creators of Betty Boop and Popeye) and 1960s Pop Art but with much more attention to gesture and surface.

Similarly, her work on paper will not be constrained by the limitations of the rectangle, often resulting in her decision to cut and construct the image into shapes that further define the composition. In this print, The Deep Blue C, the artist might simply be referring to the blue cup that dominates the composition but she also might be drawing our attention to the tidal motion of rocking and reeling that results in what can best be described as whitecaps erupting from that cup. That palpable energy is barely contained within the print itself, which is circumscribed by a scalloped pink doily, plate, placemat, tablecloth or even table top, beneath the “C.” This domestic scene of morning coffee or afternoon tea is far from tranquil. Murray’s comical depiction of this tempest in a teacup seems to acknowledge the underlying tension and anxiety of modern domesticity and the inherent possibility of psychological crisis.

Elizabeth Murray (American, 1940–2007) Deep Blue C, 2001 Edition: 50, SP 9 14-color lithograph/screenprint, hand-cut  29 1/4 x 44 1/4 inches Courtesy of Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl

Elizabeth Murray

(American, 1940–2007)

Deep Blue C, 2001

Edition: 50, SP 9/10

14-color lithograph/screenprint, hand-cut

Courtesy of Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl

 

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844–1926) Kneeling in an Arm Chair, 1903 Edition: ca. 50, numbered 2 in pencil Drypoint engraving 11 7/8 x 9 9/16 inches Courtesy Pia Gallo

Collection Spotlight- Mary Cassatt

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Mary Cassatt
(American, 1844–1926)
Kneeling in an Arm Chair, 1903
Edition: ca. 50, numbered 2 in pencil
Drypoint engraving
Courtesy Pia Gallo

Mary Cassatt was born into a family of wealth and privilege who objected to her aspirations of becoming a professional artist. In spite of this lack of familial support, Cassatt today is recognized as one of America’s most significant masters of the late 19th and early 20th century. As an ex-patriate she is credited with influencing and shaping American art tastes as evidenced by the Havemeyer Collection of Impressionism now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

At the early age of fifteen, Cassatt began her formal studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia but she was disappointed in the limited instruction she received as a female student. In 1866, she persuaded her mother to move with her to Paris where she continued her studies under the private tutelage of Jean-Léon Gérôme and later Thomas Couture. By 1868, she had a painting selected to be in the Paris Salon, but it would be another decade before Cassatt would find her true artistic identity among the Impressionists, that infamous group of painters that defied academic tradition. Her introduction to the group came through Edgar Degas, who encouraged Cassatt to explore other media such as pastel and intaglio printmaking on copper plate (which she was first introduced to by Carlo Raimondi in Parma, Italy in 1872). Over the next few decades she would become extremely skillful and innovative at both mediums.

During her years in Paris, Cassatt’s extended family was a constant presence and were the subject of several of her paintings. Many of these images include her closely observed treatments of a mother and child, for which she became known. She did not over-romanticize these images, but focused instead on the individuality and temperament of her subjects.

“Kneeling in an Arm Chair is an exceptionally fine, early impression of this drypoint image from 1903, which features Margot, the daughter of Reine Lefebvre who lived near the artist’s summer home, Chateau de Beaufresne at Mesnil-Theribus in Oise,” said Marilyn Laufer, director, Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. “Both mother and child often sat for Cassatt. There is undoubtedly an ease and familiarity with her young subject, which enabled Cassatt to capture that fleeting moment when the child paused to consider something outside the picture frame. Her gaze is wistful, but in an instant, we know that her impatience will return and she will resume her childlike perpetual motion.”

Mary Cassatt (American, 1844–1926) Kneeling in an Arm Chair, 1903 Edition: ca. 50, numbered 2 in pencil Drypoint engraving 11 7/8 x 9 9/16 inches Courtesy Pia Gallo

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