Ethel Fisher, Double Portrait, Yellow Space (Ethel & Seymour),  1969, Oil on linen, 51 x 46 in

Ethel Fisher, Self Portrait Standing in Front of Sea and Mountains, 1986, Oil on canvas, 31 x 28 in


LewAllen Galleries announces its exclusive representation of the work of Ethel Fisher (1923-2017) in conjunction with her Estate.  Fisher is a highly distinguished American artist who lived and worked in New York, Miami, and Los Angeles during a career that spanned seven decades. She is lauded especially for her distinctive large-scale figurative paintings featuring portraiture of psychological depth and tension set against background fields of color.  Fisher has also been recognized for her architectural paintings of ornate facades of iconic buildings in major cities, as well as landscapes and interiors.

 

Born in Galveston, Texas, Fisher moved to New York in the mid-1940s to study at the Art Students League. There, Fisher studied with the legendary Will Barnet, as well as noted teacher Morris Kantor during the early years of the Abstract Expressionist movement. 

 

Fisher moved to Miami with her husband Gene Fisher and baby daughter Sandra in 1947. There, she began to receive recognition for a unique lyrical style that she later described as “abstract impressionist.” In 1953, her teacher and lifelong friend, Will Barnet, offered this evaluation of her work:  

 

"Ethel Fisher’s paintings are full of light and love for rich surfaces. Dynamic movements vitalized her forms and make her paintings flow from area to area until the surface is brimming with life. But beneath this dynamic flow is a basic structure and contains the movement and gives meaning to her form. Her paintings are filled with joy for living."

 

The sculptor Paul Thek, and painters Margaret Lefranc (Schoonover), Larue (Sunny) Storm, Elaine Ehrenkranz, Tony Scornavacca and Custis Brooks formed her circle of friends in South Florida. Throughout the 1950’s, Fisher’s paintings were shown at museums and galleries around the United States, and she had solo exhibitions in Florida as well as Havana, Cuba. 

 

In 1963, after completing a tour of Europe, Fisher and her second husband, Seymour Kott, relocated to New York City. There, she shifted her attention to figurative painting and away from abstraction. By the end of the decade, Fisher was painting highly stylized figures within large color fields that doubled as real and imagined architectural space.  

 

Subsequently, Fisher's relocation to California in 1969, where she and Seymour Kott eventually settled in a Pacific Palisades home with a studio overlooking the Pacific Ocean, marked a new chapter in her artistic journey. Over the following decades, she continued to create an extensive collection of artwork encompassing portraits, architectural paintings, interior scenes, landscapes, still lifes, and collages.

 

While the choice of subject matter in many examples of Fisher’s portrait works were personal and intimate, her approach to painting was always acclaimed to be unique and captivating. Ethel Fisher painted portraits not only of notable figures like Martha Alf, Alice Baber, Will Barnet, Ilse Getz, Paul Jenkins, Henry Pearson, and Paul Thek, but also of her daughters Sandra Fisher and Margaret Fisher, as well as their extended family. Sandra Fisher later married the painter R.B. Kitaj in 1983, and both her son and stepson would eventually appear in Ethel’s paintings.

 

Fisher’s works are held in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art, the Kalamazoo Institute of Art, the Fairfield University Art Museum, the Jewish Museum in New York, and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego among many others. 

 

Ethel Fisher: Portraits of the Sublime, the artist's first solo exhibition in 38 years, will be on view at LewAllen Galleries in Santa Fe from April 26 to May 25, 2024. The exhibition will be accompanied by both a printed and digital catalogue that offers a contemporary perspective on Fisher's remarkable body of work.

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