Born in Brooklyn, New York 1924
Died in New York, New York 2014
Jane Freilicher established herself in the 1950s among a generation of New York painters including Helen Frankenthaler, Alex Katz, Joan Mitchell, and Larry Rivers. A self-assured and independent painter, Freilicher soon developed a painting style that took from the lessons of abstraction, but was adamantly representational, executed with a light, deft touch and an unpretentious beauty. There’s an almost deceptive yet captivating looseness to her brushwork, a masterful balance between depiction and suggestion seen within all of her work.
Over a six-decade career, she quietly painted in direct contrast to the heroic and gestured angst of Abstract Expressionism, the industrial starkness of Minimalism, and the broad sweeping cacophony of Pop. She painted in the same spirit and dedication as Bonnard and Matisse: a subtle and unrelenting observation of domestic life. John Ashbery in a 1975 review described Freilicher with “obviously she paints what she sees, but it happens that she sees a lot."
Freilicher painted predominately the view from her studio window, be that from her Greenwich Village apartment looking downtown, or from her Water Mill studio, overlooking the seascapes and marshes of Long Island's Mecox Bay. Often juxtaposed within the view is a still life: a vase or two of flowers, a potted plant, or ephemera casually arranged on a nearby table. Within this disciplined routine, Freilicher was dedicated and consistent in painting what on first survey appears to be the same, but upon scrutiny, one sees and senses the constantly shifting subtlety and nuance of her subject matter: no one view is ever the same, neither is the cluster of wildflowers in a glass jar. It’s not so much what is being depicted in Freilicher’s paintings, but how it’s rendered: the atmosphere, the evanescent glow of sunlight, the interior colors - it is the subtle shifts and changes detectable over a long and sustained observation that still resonate within each of her pictures.
The artist played a pivotal role as the confidant and muse to the poets of the New York School, particularly John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler. The artist’s archives are permanently housed at the Houghton Library, Harvard University, and she will be the subject of a forthcoming biography written by Karin Roffman (Farrar, Straus, Giroux).
Freilicher is represented in numerous public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. She is the subject of many monographs and publications. She was a longtime member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and National Academy of Design, and she was the recipient of the Gold Medal in Painting from the Academy of Arts and Letters.