Finding Your Way Back

26 Jun 2012

I've always been fascinated by artists who live during incredibly polarizing times, but somehow still seem to go their own way. Elmer Bischoff--ever heard of this oil painting artist? He stands out as an artist in the aftermath of World War II when abstract expressionism was on the rise. He found his way back to figuration, creating works that are quiet, lovely, and surprisingly sumptuous with their color and paint treatment.

Orange Sweater by Elmer Bischoff, 1955, oil on canvas, 48 1/2 x 57.
Orange Sweater by Elmer Bischoff, 1955, oil on canvas, 48 1/2 x 57.

As part of the Bay Area figurative art movement, Bischoff took on elements of abstraction but found he was drawn to the figure in his oil painting art as well. A couple of my favorite Bischoff oil painting works are Orange Sweater and Red Cliffs. Looking at them side by side I see why I'm equally drawn to them. Both have colors that are somewhat muted but are also subtle and complex. In Orange Sweater, the light shining through the blinds in the background of the work is so beautiful--a mauve-grey with a gorgeous golden tinge.

I'm also drawn to how figures are situated in the landscape of Bischoff's works. They are almost hidden in plain sight. That's how unassuming and well-placed they are. There's a perfect balance between figure and interior or landscape, and that is pretty rare. Usually artists tend to emphasize one or the other. The results are so sensitive and peaceful, a testament to the diverse and complex history of American painting!

 Red Cliffs by Elmer Bischoff, 1963, oil on canvas, 78 x 103.
 Red Cliffs by Elmer Bischoff, 1963, oil on canvas, 78 x 103.

In the upcoming July/August issue of American Artist, there's an in-depth article on Bischoff that puts his career and contributions in context. With a subscription to American Artist, this will be the first issue you receive. After you give it a read let me know what you think about Bischoff, his work, and any of the other featured artists in the magazine. There are certain to be several that catch your interest. Enjoy your subscription!


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