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Perle Fine

American Painter

Perle Fine Photo

Born: 1905 - Boston Massachusetts

Died: 1988 - East Hampton, New York

"My paintings speak in the only language I know - color. Its fascination makes me stubborn about expressing myself through the plastic play of these pure means. I like to light up a canvas with colour; I like to make it shout or whisper; I like to make it spin...or make forms melt softly over the whole picture."

Summary of Perle Fine

Successful and well-regarded in the late-1940s and early-1950s, Perle Fine embodied the tenets of Abstract Expressionism. Steeped in the discoveries of modern European masters, Fine found her own visual language to explore the depths of human emotion and vitality. Insistent on the dynamism of color and line, Fine's abstract paintings and collages evoke a sense of music, dance, and landscape, all comingling to remind the viewer of the interconnectedness of humans with nature and with each other.

Despite her contributions to the visual idiom of Abstract Expressionism and being integral to the downtown social scene in New York City, Fine largely disappeared from the annals of Abstract Expressionism. Unlike many of her male counterparts who settled on a singular, signature style, Fine explored various styles of painting, from gestural Action Painting to more structured, cooler Minimalist works, and perhaps because of this ceaseless exploration Fine, like her adventurous colleague Hedda Sterne, failed to fit into the narrative of Abstract Expressionism constructed by later critics and historians. Recent scholarship, though, has again attempted to shine a light on the contributions made to Abstract Expressionism by female artists.

Key Ideas

Though trained in illustration and traditional drawing, Fine worked her way through Picasso, Matisse, Kandinsky, and others. One of the abiding influences for Fine was the modernist master Piet Mondrian. The structure and dynamism of his Neo-Plastic paintings often informed Fine's explorations, even when the results were visually distinct.
Fine's experiments with collage, at various times using paper, foil, and even wood, were as rigorous as her investigations in painting. Playing with line, texture, shadow, and light, Fine's collages were a fresh take on the largely moribund tradition in the middle of the 20th century.
Over the years, Fine pursued various styles, never settling on one. Her tireless explorations were always an attempt to push color and line to their most expressive. After departing the frenetic art scene of downtown New York, Fine felt more liberated to experiment and try new styles on her own terms, without the pressures and demands of the art world.
Like other female artists, such as Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, and Hedda Sterne, Perle Fine was sidelined in discussions of Abstract Expressionism. While respected by her male colleagues and many critics at the time, many gallerists in the later half of the 1950s insisted that women artists were not marketable, and in many ways they were subsequently erased from the histories.
Perle Fine Photo

One of six children, Perle Fine was born near Boston in 1905, shortly after her parents emigrated from Russia. Her father was a dairy farmer, and while not in school, she helped out doing chores around the farm and house. She remembered, "We had a marvellous childhood. We always had lots to eat, lots of fresh good milk, cream, cheese, butter, everything. I never knew how poor we were." Fine's interest in art started at an early age, making posters and winning small prizes through her time in grammar school. When she graduated from high school, she was set on having a career as an artist. None of her other siblings were artists, but her sister was a pianist and encouraged her creativity.

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