Two Autograph Letters Signed by Isabel Bishop, American Painter and Graphic Artist.
Two letters by artist Isabel Bishop (1902–1988) written to “Betty” and “Reg” —discussing her aquatint printing process and agreeing with New York Times chief art critic Hilton Kramer’s negative assessment of Bishop’s fellow realist artist, Andrew Wyeth.
Bishop describes her own criticism of the controversial, though popular, painter Andrew Wyeth as “shocking”:
This morning’s “Times” has the enclosed review [not present here], by Hilton Kramer, of James Wyeth’s exhibition, which I have not yet seen. Kramer’s seems also a dissenting voice as regards Andrew Wyeth’s total contribution Since I felt that my own dissent seemed somewhat shocking, I am afraid I was glad to see some confrontation—even though i hate to agree with a critic!
In his years as chief art critic at the New York Times, from 1965 to 1982, Hilton Kramer (1928–2012), was a vociferous critic of Andrew Wyeth.
In her letter to Reg, Bishop describes her technique of printing an aquatint. Reg owns one of her aquatints:
After a line etching is produced on the plate, it is re-grounded with a “porous,” or “dotted” ground, and tones on them bitten, is dried, to various depths, stopping our portions with varnish. The funny contraption [burin or rocker] you describe is in all the books! But quite unnecessary! Usually the powdered resin is…shaken onto a warm plate (which has been thoroughly cleaned), to cover about 50% of the surface. The plate is then heated, so that the particles of resin adhere. then the biting of tones can begin.
Bishop goes on to write that she had just recently met “Mr. Pei” of the “Institute”—almost certainly the Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei of M.I.T.—and happily adds in a post script: “I am pleased to be able to tell you that the Metropolitan Museum is buying a print of this plate! I have only just heard.”
“[Bishop’s] 1935 Two Girls was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and first brought her to national public attention. ... Throughout the tumultuous period in America when abstract expressionism overshadowed the New York art world, Bishop remained true to her personal vision as a realist within a distinctly American tradition, which included Robert Henri, Everett Shinn, George Luks, John Sloan, [Kenneth Hayes] Miller, [Guy Pène] du Bois, and [Reginald] Marsh, of contemporary metropolitan life.” (ANB)
The two letters are accompanied by a damaged 1974 exhibition brochure of Isabel Bishop’s etchings, aquatints, and ink wash drawings from the Midtown Galleries in New York City. Bishop held her first one-woman show at Midtown Galleries in 1933.
While marriage and death dates do not appear to dovetail with the period of these letters, undated and 1966, Reginald Marsh (1898–1954) had married a Betty Burroughs, divorced by 1933. “Betty” and “Reg”?
Description: Two Autograph Letters Signed by Isabel Bishop, American Painter and Graphic Artist.
[New York. November 30, 1966 and no date]. Two ALsS. 5 pages total. Sm. 8vos. Folds; one letter with minor tape residue, not affecting text; Very Good.