Brooklyn-born Jane Freilicher is a colorist, known for her painterly works of landscape, seascape, cityscape, and still life. One subject usually predominates in her still life cityscapes: the arrangement of a bouquet of flowers on a windowsill with the buildings of Manhattan seen in the background.
Freilicher studied art at Brooklyn College but was unhappy with the school’s Bauhaus curriculum. She found an alternative in the mid-to-late 1940s when she attended Hans Hofmann’s classes in New York and in Provincetown. Hoffmann’s ideas were broad enough to be carried into Freilicher’s figuration and representational art as well as abstraction. In 1947, she received her B.A. from Brooklyn College, and in 1948 she received her M.A. from Columbia University.
In the 1950s, Freilicher was part of the informal group of artists and writers, the New York School, which included female painters Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, and Nell Blaine. In 1952, she had her first exhibit at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery where she met Fairfield Porter, also a member of the New York School. They became close friends and influenced one another in their work. In the 1950s, her work was more gestural, reflecting connections with Abstract Expressionism and Action Painting. In her early paintings at this time the titles are often the only clues to their geographic locations. For example, her 1958 “View Towards Mecox Bay” consists of a large central zone of pale blue paint which may or may not signify the bay itself. Surrounding colors of green pink brown, and white are vigorously applied in an ethereal effect. Her 1960 painting “Copper Sky is even more generalized as variegated colors are laid down in washy blocks and patches.
However, by the 1960s she had broken rank with the Abstract Expressionists and had shifted to figuration. She settled into a more representational style as specific landscape elements become more apparent. Her 1963 “Cover Crop” shows a blurred lime-green meadow, pierced by calligraphic strokes of rust and gray with houses materializing out of mass in a work, that combines abstraction and painterly realism. She draws with paint, and her heightening of color sustains the freshness of her scenes. Her signature flower works show bouquets sometimes soft and plush and other times crisp.
After summering on eastern Long Island for several years, Freilicher and her husband purchased land near Water Mill in 1960 and built a home and studio overlooking Mecox Bay. Her 1962 “Landscape in Water Mill” depicted this site directly as viewed from the window of her studio. Dry lines show the horizon and the structure the mill while pastel washes delineate the rest of the landscape. She has painted views of this particular site in numerous works for many years. One of these is her 1984 “Thicket and Field,” which evokes Long Island’s summer light.
Her landscapes are sometimes combined with interior still lifes, while her still life paintings of flowers and table top groupings are posed against an outside view of the flat shoreline of eastern Long Island or the skyline of Manhattan. In her 1984 “Bread and Bricks,” Freilicher’s composition of forsythia in a porcelain pitcher along with rolls, bread, and bricks shows a tabletop still life set against the backdrop of Manhattan.
Freilicher had a solo exhibition at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in 1979. In 2005, she received the Gold Medal in Painting from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her works are in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, Whitney Museum, Utah Museum of Fine Arts, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Washington D.C.’s Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.