Saturday, July 1st, 2006

An American Abroad: Sandra Fisher and her School of London Friends

New York Studio School
8 West 8 Street
New York NY 10011
212 673 6466

March 30 to May 13, 2006

Sandra Fisher Death of Romeo (Berlioz) 1994 oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches Collection of Max Kitaj (c) Estate of Sandra Fisher
Sandra Fisher, Death of Romeo (Berlioz) 1994 oil on canvas, 18 x 18 inches Collection of Max Kitaj (c) Estate of Sandra Fisher

The achievement of the American artist Sandra Fisher  (1947–94) was overshadowed during her lifetime by her husband R.B. Kitaj and other School of London artists. Now, 12 years after Fisher’s  death from a cerebral hemorrhage, the New York Studio School’s exhibition of nearly 70 works by Fisher  and her colleagues explores her role as an artist and muse within this lively circle. Curated by my New York Sun colleague David Cohen, this snugly hung exhibition honors Fisher’s  preference for salonstyle installations.

Among the numerous portraits of Fisher  is Mr. Kitaj’s beautiful and affectionate pencil and charcoal sketch from 1981. Other portraits include Frank Auerbach’s pastel and charcoal work from 1973–74 and Raphael Soyer’s 1983 double portrait in oils of the artist with her husband.

Fisher’s  nearly 50 paintings and works on paper are conservatively impressionistic in style, but her subjects — especially her voyeuristic portraits of young nude men — suggest a free spirit. Her portrait “Susannah Drawing” (1983) vividly captures the intense stare and deeply shadowed features of an artist at work. Fisher’s  drawing and brushstrokes remain vigorous throughout these works, but her palette less so: Lights and darks at times lose their colorfulness, and mid-toned hues tend toward the jarring. But this, perhaps, can be attributed to an independent temperament, one that was both traditional and youthful in outlook, and inspiring to many around her.

This review was first published in the New York Sun, May 4, 2006