THE CALLA LILY DIALOGUES

PERLE FINE: Abstract Expressionist (1905-1988)

Calla Lily ArtArleen Solomon RotchinComment

‘I know I was as good as anybody else in there,’ she said when Samuel Kootz, a New York gallery owner, announced that there would be no women artists in his gallery.  

Despite Kootz’s statement, Perle Fine had been in many solo and group shows during the late 1940’s.  Because of her success with these exhibitions, there was every implication that she was on the verge of success in the art world and soon was at the center of the emerging Abstract Expressionist movement.

A highly talented artist who was committed to abstraction throughout a career that lasted 50 years, she was one of the few women artists who became a member of The Artist Club, an intellectual group at the center of the art world that was led by Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, both of whom were among her friends.  She was also close to Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner and was a long-time member of the important American Artists group (AAA).

Summering in Provincetown throughout the 1940’s, enabled her to partake in strong cultural and social exchange of the artists’ colony.  Here she established herself as a confident and talented artist.  She touched upon various mediums and abstract styles using materials such as paper, newsprint and sand.  Her pictures entertain organically inspired shapes and forms that seem to float-either painted or collaged over a background.

WHITE AIR 1959 Mixed Media Collage

WHITE AIR 1959 Mixed Media Collage

Her education began in her native Boston before she enrolled at the Arts Students League in 1935 and fell under the influence Piet Mondrian.  In 1939 she began working with Hans Hofmann in New York and his summer school in Provincetown, Ma.  She eventually broke with Hofmann’s theories and sought to find her own, more calm and contemplative.

Fine focused her efforts on a series of spare, elegant geometric works called Accordments and remained active in the arts throughout her life, teaching at Cornell and Hofstra University.

Figure Descending a Ladder, 1960 (oil on canvas)

Figure Descending a Ladder, 1960 (oil on canvas)

She had more than 30 solo exhibitions and countless group showings and is represented in numerous museums and private collections.  Her Polyphonic Series was inspired by music and dance as well as forms and concepts found in outer space.

Little Green Collage with Painting, 1959 (oil and collage on canvas)

Little Green Collage with Painting, 1959 (oil and collage on canvas)

‘I never thought of myself as a student or teacher, but as a painter.  When I paint something I am very much aware of the future.  If I feel something will not stand up 40 years from now, I am not interested in doing that kind of thing,’ she said.

Although Fine’s last years were lost to Alzheimer’s disease, she died fulfilling her art.  She died of pneumonia in May, 1988, at the age of 83 years old in East Hampton, New York.