Study for Subway Reading

by Isabel Bishop (1902–1988)
Oil and pencil on board
26⅝ x 14½ inches


The artist

[With] Midtown Galleries, New York, New York

Private collection, ca. 1960

Sale, Nye & Company, Bloomfield, New Jersey, March 2, 2022, lot 90

Private collection, New York, New York


Midtown Galleries, New York, New York, Elizabeth Bishop, May 3–28, 1960

Related Works

Subway Reading, 1956, oil and tempera on gesso panel, 24½ x 17¾ inches; Private collection

Subway Scene, 1957–1958, tempera, pencil, and oil on board, 40¼ x 28⅛ inches; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, New York

Note: This work exemplifies Isabel Bishop’s keen interest in observing those around her, particularly people of the working class amid their daily routine. Bishop produced numerous depictions of these quotidian moments, taking great care to capture each detail to her liking once back at her studio. Speaking on her many subway scenes, Bishop said, “the subway can be so easily literally portrayed as a prison, which was not what I saw,” continuing, “I got to see that the only way I could convey anything of my vision was to…hardly create the figures in trying to suggest their being kind of a map of life. It’s there…in the appearing and disappearing in this situation that makes the charm of it for me.”[1]

[1] Helen Yglesias, Isabel Bishop (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1988), 18.

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