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Isabel Bishop printmaker of Union Square
By Victoria Meyers

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio, Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was a distinguished printmaker, painter and illustrator, who worked in New York’s Union Square for over six decades. Bishop’s style was defined as urban realism and she best known for her etchings of average American women performing daily activities. Bishop specialized in genre scenes, and has been described as a genius at modeling the human figure. Her work grew and changed artistically throughout her 60-year career, however the figure remained her primary subject. Bishop produced more than one hundred prints over six decades and worked in two types of intaglio (a print making process in which the ink goes beneath the original surface of the matrix). At first she used copper plate etching, and after 1959, copper plate etching with aquatint. She leased a studio in the northwest corner of New York’s 14th Street Union Square for 44 years (1934 to 1978). Bishop’s work illustrates the changing face of this famous Square from the 1930s Depression years, when it was filled with vagrants, through the years of war protest, to the students of the 1960s and ‘70s. The many people, fountains and pathways of the Square form the core of Bishop’s work. Art Critic Henry McBride noted that all of Bishop’s people, even the hoboes, "were glad to be alive, and particularly glad to be New Yorkers." Union Square was home to many artists who became known as the Fourteenth Street School.

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