National Museum of Women in the Arts
Isabel Bishop
March 03 1902 - February 19 1988
Photograph of Isabel Bishop, 1959, by Budd. 8 x 10 inches (20 x 25 cm). Isabel Bishop papers, 1930-1985. Archives of American Art, Washington, DC, USA. (c) Budd, New York, NY, USA.
Place of Birth:
Phonetic Spelling:
IHZ-ah-behl BIHSH-up
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting
Artistic Role(s):
Draftsperson, Etcher, Illustrator, Painter, Printmaker
Social Realism
Artist's Biography:
Although born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1902, Isabel Bishop spent only the first year of her life in that city. The economic demands of raising her and four elder siblings compelled the Bishop family to move to Detroit, Michigan where her father found a job as a high school principal. Growing up, Bishop showed an interest in art and, after graduating from high school and studying briefly at John P. Wicker’s School of Fine Arts, she decided to pursue her formal training in earnest. At age sixteen, she moved to New York and enrolled at the New York School of Applied Design for Women with the intention of studying illustration. But two years later she became inspired by the emerging Modern Art movement and transferred to The Art Students League of New York, where she studied painting until 1924. While at the League, Bishop was a student of Guy Pène du Bois and Kenneth Hayes Miller. They taught her new ways of learning from the Renaissance and Baroque masters who inspired her, such as Rembrandt and Rubens.

Bishop’s work, which early on had depicted realistically rendered nudes, shifted focus: she began to draw, etch, and paint the distinctly urban subject matter that surrounded her. In 1926, she moved to 14th Street and became enamored of Union Square and its denizens. Shop girls, straphangers, laborers, and derelicts presented models of activity as they traversed the Square, and by capturing their motions and gestures Bishop produced the walking figures for which she is best known.

In 1934, Bishop married Dr. Harold Wolff and moved to the Riverdale section of the city, but continued to work out of her studio in Union Square, diligently commuting there each weekday morning and leaving late in the evenings; a seemingly workaday schedule that she preferred to describe as an indulgence. She continued this routine until 1984 when fragile health restricted her to Riverdale. In 1988, Bishop died of Parkinson’s disease.

Other Occupation(s):
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
The Art Students League of New York, New York, NY, USA (1920-1924) New York School of Applied Design for Women, New York, NY, USA (1918-1920) Wicker School of Fine Arts, Detroit, MI, USA (1917-1918)
Related Visual Artists:
student of Robert Henri student of Guy Pène du Bois student of John P. Wicker student and friend of Kenneth Hayes Miller friend of Reginald Marsh influenced by Peter Paul Rubens influenced by Rembrandt van Rijn
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Mayor's Award of Honor for Arts and Culture, Department of Cultural Affairs, City of New York, New York, NY, USA (1979) Lifetime Achievement Award, Women's Caucus for Art, New York, NY, USA (1979) Benjamin Franklin Fellow, Royal Society of Arts, London, England (1964)
Earliest exhibition:
Isabel Bishop, Midtown Galleries, New York, NY, USA (1933)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Women Artists of the New Deal Era: A Selection of Prints and Drawings
Isabel Bishop
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
The Washington Print Club Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition: Graphic Legacy
Artist retrospective(s):
Isabel Bishop Retrospective: Paintings, Drawings & Etchings, Midtown Galleries, New York, NY, USA (1989) Retrospective of Prints, Associated American Artists, Philadelphia, PA, USA (1981) The First Retrospective Exhibition Held in American Museums of Paintings, Drawings, Etchings, and Aquatints by Isabel Bishop, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, USA (1975)
Related places
New York (died at)
Campus Students No. 1
Leaning on the Wall
Man with Shoe Bag
Men and Girls Walking
Nude Reaching
Seated Woman with Hat
Subway Station under Union Square
Two Girls