Isabel Bishop ( American, 1902 - 1988 )
Painting during the middle years of the Depression, Isabel Bishop gained considerable attention with her choice in subject matter: of working, amiable women, often paired together in ambiguous, non-recognizable spaces. The plum placement of her home and studio in Union Square gained Bishop the advantage of observation, providing her an endless supply of passersby, who served as models for her distanced, yet intimate portraits of working women. In this 1935 etching, Bishop illustrates two women caught in conversation. Likely shop girls, secretaries, students or salesclerks, her working class women are characterized by matching modern dress, heeled shoes, knotted scarves, day hats and mid-length dresses. Although seemingly idle, Noon Hour’s women share an intimate moment, linking arms in a non-descript location. The lack of place in Bishop’s intimate vignette and the routine subject matter creates a sense of timelessness, which characterizes her work as a whole, perceptively capturing quotidian scenes. The artist’s choice of subject in this etching is emblematic of her preferred composition—two women participating in the “American tradition of upward mobility,” as working, modern women living in lower Manhattan.