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Updated 3/14/07

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Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988)

20th-Century Drawings / 20th-Century Drawings 2

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Barbier / Besnard / Henri-Edmond Cross / Leonor Fini / Goncharova / Laurencin / Lucebert / Nakian / Rouault / Schlichter / Vertes

Bishop / Bohrod / Colescott / Sparrow /
Like many of her peers (including Minna Citron and Reginald Marsh), Isabel Bishop studied with Kenneth Hays Miller at the Art Students League in New York City. Miller inspired her to turn to the street life of New York and stressed the importance of drawing. in 1931 she traveled with Miller and Reginald Marsh in Europe to study the Old Masters. For most of her career as a successful and acclaimed figurative painter and printmaker, Isabel Bishop depicted anonymous, urban, working-class people singularly or in groups, in outdoor settings or in the subway below Union Square in New York where she had her studio. Her figures have substance and dignity that seems distinct from their everyday activities, nondescript clothes, and often grungy surroundings: not just city-dwellers, Bishop's women have an inner dignity that sustains them, like Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's Ulysses, during their daily odysseys through the city. Bishop's female portraits, often nude, sometimes show single figures, sometimes groupings, and convey a relaxed intimacy in which relationships between women emerge apart from the hectic hustle and bustle of the city. As Reginald Marsh observed, "Her people are what they are no more, no less. But they are very much what they are—they never are what they are not; for her perception cuts to the truth. Her art is at once original and traditional as is that of Thomas Eakins.” Bishop was a leading printmaker on the New York City art scene during the middle third of the 20th century, showing frequently with the Associated American Artists gallery, who published many of her prints and two editions of a catalogue raisonne of her etchings. After the triumph of Abstract Expressionism, Pop, and later contemporary art movements, Bishop, along with her peers (particularly Reginald Marsh, Moses and Raphael Soyer, and Minna Citron) lost some measure of popularity with the critics; yet here works never disappeared from the public view, and a major book study and a video kept her before the public eye. (For illustrations of her works see the entry in The Thames and Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists.)
Bishop taught at the Art Students’ League from 1936 to 1937 and was a life member. In 1938, she worked as a Muralist for the W.P.A., and did a mural for the US Post Office in New Lexington, Ohio. She also taught at Yale and the Skowhegan Art School, Maine. She was a member of the National Academy of Design, the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the Society of American Etchers, Gravers, Lithographers, and Woodcutters. Bishop exhibited widely during her life including the Berkshire Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Associated American Artists, and the Midtown Galleries, NYC. She was featured at several Venice Biennials and won awards for her work at the American Artists Group (etching), the National Academy of Design, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the American Society of Graphic Artists, the National Arts Club, the Royal Society of Arts (London), and others. Her works are in the permanent collections of at least 39 museums including the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Whitney Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Philadelphia Museum, the Corcoran Gallery , the Phillips Collection, the Smithsonian, and the National Academy of Design.
Select bibliography:
Una A. Johnson, Isabel Bishop: Prints and Drawings (NY: Brooklyn Museum, 1964); Karl Lunde, Isabel Bishop (NY: Abrams, 1973); Sheldon Reich, Isabel Bishop (Tuscon: The University of Arizona Museum of Art, 1974; 1st retrospective exhibit held in an American museum featuring paintings, drawings, etchings and aquatints by Isabel Bishop); Susan Pirpiris Teller, Isabel Bishop: Etchings and Aquatints. A Catalogue Raisonne (NY: Associated American Artists, 19); Helen Yglesias, Isabel Bishop (NY: Rizzoli, 1988).
Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988), Figure Studies (Verso). Double-sided pen, pencil and wash drawing, 1930. Inscribed recto within rectangular border: "To Helen with Love" and signed "Isabel Bishop." BIshop was a studied at the Art Students League in New York with Kenneth Hayes Miller. She produced a large body of etchings and paintings. Her work has been widely shown. Image size: 135x145mm. Price: $3600.
(This is the reverse of the drawing to the left.)
Isabel Bishop (American, 1902-1988), Figure Studies. Double-sided pen, pencil and wash drawing, 1930. Inscribed within rectangular border: "To Helen with Love" and signed "Isabel Bishop." BIshop was a studied at the Art Students League in New York with Kenneth Hayes Miller. She produced a large body of etchings and paintings. Her work has been widely shown. Image size: 135x145mm. Price: $3600.

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