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 Isabel (Wolff) Bishop  (1902 - 1988)

About: Isabel (Wolff) Bishop
 

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Lived/Active: New York/Ohio      Known for: city genre, street scenes and figure painting

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BIOGRAPHY for Isabel Bishop
Facts/Data
Birth
1902 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
 
Death
1988 (Riverdale, New York)

Lived/Active
New York/Ohio


Self portrait - Self Portrait #1


Often Known For
city genre, street scenes and figure painting

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Modernism
Women Artists
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Isabel Bishop was a leading painter and printmaker in New York City during the early and middle part of the 20th century.  Her subject matter was urban life of common people in lower Manhattan, and she showed great sensitivity to individual personalities.  Along with Reginald Marsh and the Soyer brothers, Bishop was an outstanding, determined realist when Abstract Expressionism was the all-prevalent style.

She spent her childhood in Detroit, Michigan, and in 1918, at age sixteen, went to New York to study illustration at the New York School of Applied Design for Women.  She attended the Art Students League where Kenneth Hayes Miller and Guy Pene du Bois became major influences.  Hayes inspired her to turn to the street life of New York for subject matter and insisted on fine draftsmanship.  DuBois made her aware of character and personality differences.

In 1925, she turned to etching, beginning with nude studies and then turning to vignettes of everyday life. For many years she had a studio on Union Square at 14th Street, and the Square provided her with much human activity subject matter.  She shared a subject interest with Reginald Marsh, and she traveled with him and Kenneth Hayes Miller in Europe in 1931 to study the Old Masters.

In 1938, she worked as a Muralist for the W.P.A., and did a mural for the U.S. Post Office in New Lexington, Ohio, and also illustrated the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice in 1946.  She was an elected Member of the National Academy of Design, a Life Member of the National Academy of Design, and had representation in New York with the Midtown Gallery.

Source: American Women Artists by Charlotte Streifer Rubinstein

Biography from The Columbus Museum of Art, Georgia:
Born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1902, Isabel Bishop moved to New York at the age of sixteen to study art at both the New York School of Applied Design for Women and the Art Students League.  With a studio on 14th Street, Bishop was identified as a member of the Fourteenth Street School, along with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Reginald Marsh.

Although Bishop was influenced by Renaissance and Baroque art, her late-1920s to the mid-1930s work is characterized by depiction of the urban working class and destitute men and women around Union Square.  She served as a perceptive observer of appearance and action and sought to capture the everyday behaviors of normal people.

Later in her life, she became enamored with the hustle and bustle of college students around New York University, which was a return to the very street scenes of her earlier days.


Source: Staff, Columbus Museum

Biography from Blake Benton Fine Art, Artists A - B:

Isabel Bishop (Mrs. Harold G. Wolfe) painter, etcher, and teacher was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on March 3, 1902.  Her early childhood years were spent in Detroit, Michigan where she took up her first formal art training at the Wicker Art School.  In 1918, at age sixteen, Bishop went to New York to study illustration at the New York School of Applied Design for Women.  She also had brief instruction at the Moore Institute.  It was her studies at the Art Students League in New York under Kenneth Hayes Miller and Guy Pene du Bois that had the greatest impact on her professional career.  DuBois made her aware of character and personality differences.  Miller inspired her to turn to the street life of New York for subject matter and insisted on fine draftsmanship.  She later traveled with Miller and Reginald Marsh in Europe in 1931 to study the Old Masters.

Isabel Bishop worked at painting, drawing and etching for many years in a studio on New York's Union Square.  Typical subjects of Bishop were "two girls in the subway, one girl eating ice cream, an old man sewing in the park, an old man leaning over to pick up a cigar butt, etc. 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." (Reginald Marsh) Bishop's output was small owing to much erasing and reworking in her art.

She built up her easel paintings in various layers of tempera and oil over usually a gray striped gesso ground, which was seen through transparently or semi-transparently with opaque touches that radiated and shimmered in delicate touches of color and gray.  Her works in this style were said to "sparkle, grow weak, dissolve, reappear, pass again into solid points of relief, move here, move there, suggesting the style of matchless sketches of Reubens; they give great delight."  These misty semi-transparent works appear limitless in space.

She was also known for genre, portraits, streets, parks, children, nudes, subway and hot dogs.  Although her early works were mostly that of easel paintings, Bishop was a leading printmaker on the New York City art scene during the end of the first quarter and early middle part of the 20th century.  Her printed matter took on the same subjects as her earlier mixed media works, social realism depicting the everyday urban life of common people in lower Manhattan.  Along with Reginald Marsh, Moses and Raphael Soyer and many others, Bishop was an outstanding, determined realist when Abstract Expressionism was the all-prevalent style.

Bishop, along with many of the other "turn-of-the-century" artists holding true to their early artistic convictions lost favor with the critics and art patrons to the new school of Abstract Expressionism, Modernism and the like.  Today, long after the re-discovery of this preserved purists group their works are eagerly sought after.  She 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 U.S. Post Office in New Lexington, Ohio, and also illustrated the Jane Austen novel Pride and Prejudice (Book of the Month Club edition 1946).  Bishop also taught at Yale and Skowhegan Art School, Maine.

She was a member of the National Academy of Design; National Institute of Arts and Letters; Society of American Etchers, Gravers, Lithographers, and Woodcutters; Art Students' League, an American Group and others. Bishop exhibited extensively during her life including Berkshire Museum; Whitney; Midtown Galleries, NYC; Venice Biennials and other.  She won awards for her work at he American Artists Group, etching; National Academy of Design; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; American Society of Graphic Artists; National Arts Club; Audubon Artists; Royal Society of Arts, London and others. She is represented in numerous important public and private collections.  Bishop passed away in New York City in 1988.


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