Tidying Up

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
oil on masonite
Dimensions
15 x 11 1/2 in. 23 1/8 x 19 7/8 in. (framed)
Credit line
Delavan Smith Fund
Accession number
43.24
Collection
Currently On View

In Tidying Up, a woman, perhaps a secretary or salesperson, uses a pocket mirror to check her teeth for lipstick smudges.

Bishop saw working women as participants in an American tradition of upward mobility. She used active brushwork and the figure’s physical movement to express this social advancement.

Along with Reginald Marsh, Bishop was part of the Fourteenth Street School, a group of artists who sought to capture contemporary life in New York City in the 1930s and 1940s.

purchased from Midtown Galleries in New York
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Isabel Bishop and the Fourteenth Street School

"Isabel Bishop was part of a loosely knit group of artists that included Reginald Marsh. Known as the Fourteenth Street School, they sought to capture contemporary life in New York City in the 1930s and '40s. Bishop is primarily associated with studies of young women caught during idle moments away from their jobs. She spent more than ten years painting the secretaries, sales clerks, and blue-collar workers who lived or worked around Union Square. Her favorite subject was women going about their everyday lives, eating, talking, putting on makeup, taking off their coats. These ordinary motions produced facial expressions that Bishop felt revealed the personality of the people she portrayed.

In Tidying Up, a woman, perhaps a secretary or salesperson, uses a pocket mirror to check her teeth for lipstick smudges. Bishop saw such women as participants in an American tradition of upward mobility, and she used active brushwork and a sense of the figure's physical movement as metaphors for this social advancement. Bishop's sepia tones achieve a transparency that results in a sense of vibration and thus of motion. At the same time, the warm brown recalls old master drawings of the Italian Renaissance, a taste that Bishop shared with her teacher, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and with Marsh."

Lee, Ellen Wardwell, Anne Robinson, and Alexandra Bonfante-Warren. Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection. Indianapolis: Indianapolis Museum of Art, 2005, p. 149.

Isabel Bishop and the Modern Woman

A native of Cincinnati, Isabel Bishop was educated at Wicker Art School, Detroit, the New York School of Design for Women, and the Art Students League of New York, where she later taught classes in life drawing and composition. Bishop became part of a group of artists known as the Fourteenth Street School. These artists were influenced by the realism of the Ashcan School. The Fourteenth Street School was comprised of their leader Kenneth Hayes Miller, Reginald Marsh, Bishop, and the brothers Raphael and Moses Soyer. The name of the group derived from their geographical focus on Union Square, which is bordered on its south side by 14th Street in New York. They painted scenes of daily life in the city, concentrating on individuals from lower socio-economic groups. Isabel Bishop created canvases full of female subjects, like her mentor, Kenneth Hayes Miller, who often painted canvases of female shoppers.

Bishop is best known for her studies of young women in New York caught during idle moments away from their jobs. In the painting Tidying Up, a woman, perhaps a secretary or sales person, uses a pocket mirror to check her teeth for lipstick smudges. Bishop saw working women as participants in an American tradition of upward mobility. Both the active brushwork and the figure’s physical movements suggest this social movement. The sepia tones of the painting recall an Old Master drawing, a taste Bishop may have acquired from her teacher, Kenneth Hayes Miller, an anti-modernist and admirer of the Renaissance.

Harms, Ernest. "Light is the Beginning: The Art of Isabel Bishop." American Artist 25, no. 2 (1961): 25.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Isabel Bishop was part of a loosely knit group of artists that included Reginald Marsh. Known as the Fourteenth Street School, they sought to capture contemporary life in New York City in the 1930s and '40s. Bishop is primarily associated with studies of young women caught during idle moments away from their jobs. She spent more than ten years painting the secretaries, sales clerks, and blue-collar workers who lived or worked around Union Square. Her favorite subject was women going about their everyday lives, eating, talking, putting on makeup, taking off their coats. These ordinary motions produced facial expressions that Bishop felt revealed the personality of the people she portrayed.

In Tidying Up, a woman, perhaps a secretary or salesperson, uses a pocket mirror to check her teeth for lipstick smudges. Bishop saw such women as participants in an American tradition of upward mobility, and she used active brushwork and a sense of the figure's physical movement as metaphors for this social advancement. Bishop's sepia tones achieve a transparency that results in a sense of vibration and thus of motion. At the same time, the warm brown recalls old master drawings of the Italian Renaissance, a taste that Bishop shared with her teacher, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and with Marsh.

It's a moment in [the women's] lives when they are really in motion, because they, of course, are looking for husbands and, at the same time, they're earning their living.
-Isabel Bishop, 1957