An interview of Isabel Bishop conducted on 1959 April 15, by Warren Chappell and Henrietta Moore, for the Archives of American Art.
Bishop speaks of her painting, "Subway Scene"; the Art Students League; study abroad; contemporary art; problems with drawing Union Square; and the drawings of James Thurber. She recalls Kenneth Hayes Miller and Reginald Marsh.
Biographical / Historical:
Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was a painter in New York, New York.
Originally recorded 1 sound tape reel. Reformatted in 2010 as 1 digital wav file. Duration is 1 hr., 4 min.
This interview is part of the Archives of American Art Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.
Transcript available on the Archives of American Art website.
The Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries records measure 21.8 linear feet and are dated 1858-1969 (bulk 1919-1968). The records consist mainly of business correspondence with collectors, artists, museums and arts organizations, colleagues, and others. A small amount of Frank K. M. Rehns personal correspondence and a few stray personal papers of individual artists are interfiled. Also included are financial records, scrapbooks, printed matter, miscellaneous records, and photographs documenting most of the history of a highly regarded New York City art gallery devoted to American painting.
Scope and Content Note:
The Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries records measure 21.8 linear feet and are dated 1858-1969 (bulk 1919-1968). The records consist mainly of business correspondence with collectors, artists, museums and arts organizations, colleagues, and others. A small amount of Frank K. M. Rehn's personal correspondence and a few stray personal papers of individual artists are interfiled. Also included are financial records, scrapbooks, printed matter, miscellaneous records, and photographs documenting most of the history of a highly regarded New York art gallery devoted to American painting.
Series 1: Correspondence contains correspondence with artists, museums and arts organizations, collectors, colleagues, and others documents the workings of Rehn Galleries from its earliest days through 1968. A small amount of Frank K. M. Rehn's personal correspondence and a few scattered personal papers of individual artists are interfiled with the business correspondence.
Series 2: Financial Records includes banking, insurance, and investment records, tax returns and related documentation, miscellaneous financial records and paid bills. Among the insurance records are detailed monthly schedules listing paintings with titles, artists, and insurance values. Miscellaneous financial records include inventories of gallery stock, notes regarding business expenses and income, and receipt books recording incoming paintings. Also included are a small number of items concerning the personal business of Frank Rehn and John Clancy.
Five volumes of Scrapbooks (Series 3) contain clippings and a small number of exhibition catalogs documenting the activities of Rehn Galleries and many of its associated artists. Additional Printed Matter in Series 4 includes material relating to Rehn Galleries and its artists, as well as publications produced by Rehn Galleries. General, art-related printed matter consists of articles, auction catalogs, advertisements, and publications of various museums, arts organizations, and schools. There is also material about artists not affiliated with Rehn Galleries. Additional printed items concern miscellaneous subjects that are not art-related.
Series 5: Miscellaneous Records, includes artwork, lists and notes, and writings. Photographs in Series 6 are of people including artists represented by Rehn as well as several not affiliated with the gallery. Noticeably absent are likenesses of Frank Rehn and John Clancy. Photographs of works of art are by Rehn Galleries' artists and others. Reginald Marsh's photographs consist of family and personal photographs that were either given to Rehn Galleries or perhaps loaned for research use, and include views of Marsh from early childhood through later life, photographs of family and friends, and a small family album. Also included are photographs are of Marsh's childhood drawings.
Series 1: Correspondence is arranged alphabetically and Series 3: Scrapbooks is in rough chronological order. Series 2, and 4-6 are arranged in categories, as indicated in the Series Descriptions/Container Listing. Unless otherwise noted, items within each folder are arranged chronologically.
The collection is arranged into 6 series:
Series 1: Correspondence, 1858-1969, undated (Boxes 1-15; 14.4 linear ft.; Reels 5849-5869)
Series 2: Financial Records, 1919-1968, undated (Boxes 15-17; 2.6 linear ft; Reel 5869)
Series 3: Scrapbooks, 1919-1940 (Boxes 23-24; 0.6 linear ft.; Reels 5869-5870)
Series 4: Printed Matter, 1882-1969, undated (Boxes 18-20; 2.4 linear ft.; Reels 5870-5872)
Series 5: Miscellaneous Records, circa 1920-1968 (Boxes 20-21; 0.7 linear ft; Reel 5872)
Series 6: Photographs, 1871-1966, undated (Boxes 22, 24, OV 25; 1.0 linear ft.; Reel 5872)
Frank K. M. Rehn (1886-1956), son of the marine painter Frank Knox Morton Rehn, after several years' experience as an employee of the Milch Galleries and as exhibition manager for the Salmagundi Club, opened his own art gallery in 1918. In its earliest years, the gallery operated as the Galleries of Frank K. M. Rehn. From the mid 1920s through the mid 1940s, the name used was Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries. As early as 1946, the gallery was referred to simply as Rehn Galleries. The gallery closed in 1981.
Throughout its existence, Rehn Galleries specialized in representing American painters. During the first five years Rehn's operation was a private gallery at 6 West 50th Street, New York City. Among the artists he first represented were older, established men such as J. Alden Weir, George Inness, Alexander Wyant, Theodore Robinson, Thomas Dewing, and John H. Twachtman. Occasionally, Rehn handled works by such luminaries of the period as Robert Henri, George Luks, and John Singer Sargent. Among the living artists affiliated with the gallery in its first years were Daniel Garber, Walter Griffin, Dodge MacKnight, and Robert Spencer. Rehn's most popular artist during this time was Childe Hassam, who sued for recovery of a painting that, although acquired by Rehn through a reputable dealer, had been stolen from Hassam's studio many years earlier.
Despite the newspaper publicity surrounding Hassam's lawsuit, the business was a successful venture almost immediately. Very early, a number of important collectors including Duncan Phillips, John Gellatly, John T. Spaulding, Albert McVitty, E. W. Root, and C. Vanderbilt Barton displayed confidence in Rehn's judgment and integrity, which enhanced his gallery's reputation and stature among both collectors and artists. In 1923, the gallery moved to 693 Fifth Avenue and began operating as Rehn Galleries, a commercial gallery in the same building that housed in a building that housed Kennedy and Company and the Bourgeois Galleries. At this time, Rehn hired an assistant, John C. Clancy (1897-1981), who had formerly been with Henry Reinhardt and Son and M. Knoedler.
The Rehn Galleries soon enjoyed a regular following among museum curators and collectors visiting from out of town. The gallery's roster of artists grew along with its reputation. Rehn focused almost exclusively on American painters, occasionally showing drawings and prints by artists who were primarily painters; notable exceptions were sculptor Mahonri Young and Henry Varnum Poor who, in addition to being a painter, was known for his work in ceramics. Among the painters eventually represented were: Peggy Bacon, George Bellows, Alexander Brook, Charles Burchfield, John F. Carlson, John Carroll, Howard Cook, Jon Corbino, Virginia Cuthbert, Andrew Dasberg, Sidney Gross, Edward Hopper, Alexander James, Irving Kaufmann, Yeffe Kimball, Leon Kroll, Peppino Mangravite, Reginald and Felicia Meyer Marsh, Henry Mattson, Henry Lee McFee, Kenneth Hayes Miller, Charles Rosen, Robert Riggs, Alexander Russo, Elizabeth Sparhawk-Jones, Eugene Speicher, Henry Strater, Richard Derby Tucker, Franklin C. Watkins, and Denny Winters.
In 1930, Rehn Galleries moved one block south to the Air France Building at 683 Fifth Avenue, and remained there for thirty years. John C. Clancy, Rehn's long-time assistant, became Gallery Director in 1953 after a stroke prevented Rehn from continuing to run his business in an active capacity. Eventually, Rehn's widow sold Clancy the gallery, which he continued to operate under varying names, including Rehn Gallery, Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries, Frank Rehn Gallery, and Rehn Galleries. From 1960 until 1966, The Rehn Galleries were at 36 East 61st Street from 1960 until 1966, when the gallery moved to a space formerly occupied by Kootz Gallery at 855 Madison Avenue, where it remained in business for another fifteen years.
John Clancy interview by Paul Cummings, July 10, 1970. Oral History Program, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Samuel Adler Papers, 1902-1979. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Contains a recording (1 cassette; untranscribed) of Beverly Chesler interviewing John Clancy about the history of Rehn Galleries, 1973; Samuel Adler is present and participates briefly in the interview.
The Frank K. M. Rehn Galleries records were loaned by John Clancy for microfilming in 1959; in 1966, this same material was donated to the Archives. Mr. Clancy made subsequent gifts of additional gallery records in 1978 and 1981. In 1985, the Whitney Museum of American Art donated to the Archives correspondence with Edward Hopper that John Clancy had loaned the museum many years earlier. A death mask of George Luks received with the collection is on extended loan to the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.
Art, Modern -- 20th century -- New York (State) -- New York Search this
The papers of realist painter Isabel Bishop date from 1914 to 1983 and measure 2.6 linear feet. The collection documents Bishop's painting career, her friendship with other artists, and her participation in several arts organizations. There are scattered biographical documents, correspondence with fellow artists such as Peggy Bacon, Warren Chappell, Edward Laning, and R. B. Kitaj, and with writers, curators, museums, galleries, arts organizations, and others. Also found are arts organization files, Bishop's writings about Warren Chappell and friend Reginald Marsh, notes, exhibition catalogs, news clippings, and other printed material, photographs of Bishop and her artwork, and photographs of Reginald and Felicia Marsh. Original artwork includes 8 sketchbooks, loose sketches, prints, and watercolor figure studies.
Scope and Content Note:
The papers of realist painter Isabel Bishop date from 1914 to 1983 and measure 2.6 linear feet. The collection documents Bishop's painting career, her friendship with other artists, and her participation in several arts organizations. Scattered biographical documents include awards and a file on her participation in art juries.
Bishop was friends with many artists and cultural figures and her correspondence includes letters to and from artists such as John Taylor Arms, Peggy Bacon, Peter Blume, Warren Chappell (many letters from Chappell are illustrated), Sidney Delevante, Edwin Dickinson, Philip Evergood, John Folinsbee, Malvina Hoffman, Jo Hopper, James Kearns, Leon Kroll, Clare Leighton, Jack Levine, Alice Neel, Hobson Pittman, Fairfield Porter, Abraham Rattner, Katherine Schmidt, Henry Schnakenberg, Raphael Soyer, George Tooker, Stuyvesant Van Veen, Franklin Watkins, Mahonri Young, and William Zorach. Bishop not only corresponded with artists but also many poets, authors, historians, and dancers, such as Van Wyck Brooks, John Canaday, John Ciardi, Merce Cunningham, Babette Deutsch, Edna Ferber, Richmond Lattimore, Marianne Moore, Lewis Mumford, Kurt Vonnegut, and Glenway Westcott. Also found are letters from many galleries, museums, and schools which exhibited or purchased her work, including curators Juliana Force and Una Johnson.
Bishop kept files from her affiliations with the American Society of Painters, Sculptors, and Gravers and the New Society of Artists, containing mostly membership and financial records, and a file on a UNESCO conference. Unfortunately, files documenting her membership and vice presidency of the National Institute of Arts & Letters are not found here.
A small amount of Bishop's writings and notes include essays about friends and artists Reginald Marsh and Warren Chappell. Printed material consists of exhibition catalogs and announcements, news clippings, magazines, and a design by G. Alan Chidsey for a book about Bishop. Photographs depict Bishop with her husband and in her studio, her artwork, and also include three photographs of her friend, Reginald Marsh.
Original artwork includes eight small sketchbooks, loose pen and ink sketches, intaglio prints, watercolor figure studies, and a drawing of Bishop by Aaron Bohrod.
The collection is arranged into 7 series:
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1943-1975 (Box 1; 4 folders)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1939-1983 (Box 1; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 3: Organization Files, 1924-1937, 1951-1952 (Box 1; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 4: Writings & Notes, 1937-1960s (Box 1; 4 folders)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1930-1979 (Box 2; 0.6 linear feet)
Series 6: Photographs, 1914, circa 1920s-1975 (Box 2, OV 5; 0.2 linear feet)
Series 7: Artwork, circa 1940s-1970s (Box 2-4, OV 5; 0.4 linear feet)
Isabel Bishop (1902-1988) was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to John Remsen Bishop and Anna Bartram Newbold Bishop. Shortly after her birth the family moved to Detroit, Michigan. As a child Bishop took art classes and had a growing interest in drawing. In 1918 at the age of 16 she left home and moved to New York City where she enrolled in the School of Applied Design for Women to be an illustrator. However, her real interest was in painting, not the graphic arts, and she enrolled in the Art Students League in 1920. There she studied with Kenneth Hayes Miller and Guy Pene du Bois and met many young artists, including Reginald Marsh and Edwin Dickinson, both of whom became close friends. She took classes until 1924 and rented a studio and living space on 14th Street in a neighborhood where many artists maintained studios at the time.
Bishop began exhibiting her work and participated in artist groups, including the Whitney Studio Club and the New Society of Artists. During the 1920s and 1930s she developed a realist style of painting, primarily depicting women in their daily routine on the streets of Manhattan. Her work was greatly influenced by Peter Paul Rubens and other Dutch and Flemish painters that she had discovered during trips to Europe. In 1932 Bishop began showing her work frequently at the newly opened Midtown Galleries, where her work would be represented throughout her career.
In 1934 she married Harold Wolff, a neurologist, and moved with him to Riverdale, New York. Bishop kept her studio in Manhattan, moving from 14th Street to Union Square. She remained in her Union Square studio for fifty years (1934-1984). From 1936 to 1937 she taught at the Art Students League and in 1940 her son Remsen was born. In 1941 she was named a member of the National Academy of Design and from 1944 to 1946 she was the Vice President of the National Institute of Arts & Letters, the first woman to hold an executive position with that organization. She wrote articles and joined other artists in speaking out in support of realist painting and against the abstract style that was dominating the New York art scene.
During her long career which lasted into the 1980s, Bishop exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions, traveled throughout the U. S. as an exhibition juror, and won many awards for her work, including the award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts presented by President Jimmy Carter in 1979.
Also found at the Archives of American Art are three oral history interviews with Isabel Bishop, April 15, 1959, May 29, 1959, and November 12-December 11, 1987.
The Whitney Museum of American Art and Midtown Galleries loaned additional Bishop papers to the Archives for microfilming on reels NY59-4 and NY59-5. These items were returned to the lenders after microfilming and are not described in the container listing of this finding aid.
The collection was donated in several installments by Isabel Bishop from 1959 to 1983.
The collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website.