Isabel Bishop ( American, 1902 - 1988 )
Isabel Bishop moved to New York in 1918 to enroll in the New York School of Applied Design for Women to begin her training as an illustrator, with hopes of tapping into the burgeoning market. However appealing, or lucrative the field then was, she abandoned her studies and instead applied her talent to painting, enrolling at the Art Students League. As her career developed she came to be associated with a New York based painting group: the 14th Street Painters, whose painting was characterized by observation and capturing the everyday, or routine. In this 1959 etching, Bishop illustrates two women seated at a lunch counter. Unaccompanied by men, the women attend to their respective lunches—one bringing a glass to her lips, the other griping a sandwich with both hands, likewise raising it to her mouth. By choosing to render two women, one overlapping the other, Bishop is able to practice and exhibit her skill in dramatic tonal and perspectival shifts in a single etched plate. The features of the woman in the mid-ground are crisp, well-defined and expressive, whereas the lines which define the woman in the background seem to flutter, only loosely defining her shape and modern apparel. Bishop’s focus on the human form, rather than a setting in which her sitters interact, captures a broad range of gestures and expressions, otherwise overlooked in traditional portraiture.