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What Stands between the Artist and...

1994 Eric Fischl Born: New York, New York 1948 oil on canvas 72 1/4 x 54 1/8 in. (183.5 x 137.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program 1995.93 Not currently on view

Gallery Label

Eric Fischl's images of nudes have a voyeuristic quality that leaves viewers feeling like accomplices in an unpredictable situation. We see things we should not, and yet we often don't truly understand what it is we have stumbled upon. Here, the viewer stands as the artist would at his easel, peering at a nude model beyond a palette and brushes. On the glassy surface of the palette are all of the colors in the room beyond, reminding us that this is a fictional scene.

Fischl painted a violent contrast between the rich, dark surfaces of the leather sofa and the woman's white flesh. The figure sprawls as though she has been thrown to the ground, and her hands are clenched, as if she had fought against someone. But there are not enough particulars to explain what has happened, and the act of trying to understand makes us linger too long, as though at the scene of a crime.

Fischl once said that "America's not Disneyland and we can't deny it any longer. Things smell, things have edges, people can get hurt." Standing before this painting puts us in the position not only of failing to understand but of considering possibilities we are not supposed to entertain.

Exhibition Label, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2006


Figure female - full length

Figure female - nude

Object - art object - painting

Object - art tool - artist's brush

Object - furniture - couch

State of being - emotion - anger


paint - oil

fabric - canvas