One of the foremost women artists of the 20th century, Isabel Bishop is probably best known for her paintings and drawings of shop girls, secretaries, and down-and out-men around Union Square in New York City. With a keen sense of observation and great technical skill, she portrayed ordinary people in an extraordinary way, often monumentalizing her figures within barely defined contexts, sitting on park benches or soda fountain stools, riding the subway or strolling the neighborhood during lunch hour. She also created a wide range of other work, including still lifes, interior views, and nudes, all of which redefine a classical sense of beauty in a contemporary mode.

Born in Cincinnati, OH, Bishop arrived in New York in 1918 at age 16 to study illustration at the NY School of Applied Design for Women. After 2 years, she enrolled at the Art Student’s League, where she studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller, Guy Pene du Bois, and Robert Henri. In 1926, she moved into a studio that looked out onto Union Square at Broadway and 14th Street.

...Bishop found particular inspiration in Renaissance and Baroque art, particularly that of Rembrandt and Rubens. She strove to give life to her figures and capture the essential qualities of suppleness, mood, and above all, movement. As with 17th-century Dutch and Flemish genre painters, she depicted her prosaic subjects with an uncritical eye, never idealized, but presented in a sympathetic manner that imbued them with an innate humanity. She approached her still lifes and interiors in a similar way, creating artfully arranged and precisely rendered compositions that celebrate everyday objects and elevate the commonplace.

...Isabel Bishop's contribution of illustrations to E.P. Dutton & Company’s 1976 edition of Pride and Prejudice are quite remarkable. She has been described as “the best female artist...
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First Collected by

Renee Larson


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