Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting

  • Eric Fischl
    Untitled, 1986
    Pencil on manila folder
    8 ¾ × 11½ inches
    Courtesy of the artist

  • A blurred background with a young girl about the age of 10, wearing a dress who sits with legs splayed in the center of a living room, her head rests on her elbow. A man dressed in a suit is stands over her looking confused and foreboding.

    Eric Fischl
    The Bed, the Chair, the Sitter (study), 2000
    Oil on linen
    78 × 93 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist

  • Eric Fischl
    Scenes from Late Paradise: The Stupidity, 2006-2007
    Oil on linen
    84 × 108 inches
    Collection of the Hall Art Foundation
  • Eric Fischl
    Birthday Party, 1980
    Oil on Glassine
    69 x 76 inches
    Courtesy of the Artist

What is it like to look at the world with the sharpened powers of observation and insight of a masterful painter?

This fall, SJMA offers visitors the rare opportunity to look in depth at the practice of painting through the work of one of the most influential American painters of our time. Eric Fischl’s art is grounded in his keen understanding of the historical language and the craft of painting. For him, tradition serves as an infrastructure for innovation: he uses age-old academic preparatory practices side by side with digital photography and Photoshop. Dive Deep invites you to track Fischl’s ever-adapting technical practice and his path from concept to completed work.  

Drawn from major public and private collections in the United States, the paintings are accompanied by more than one hundred beautifully fluid studies in various media: drawings, oil sketches, sculptures, digital composites, photographs, and printsmany never previously seen by the public. They illustrate how the expressive power of Fischl’s subjects evolves as he juggles compositional components, figures, props, and narrative tension. Schooled as an abstract painter and self-taught as a representational artist, Fischl mines historical painting and photography for source material. His approach to the human figure is rooted in esteemed figurative traditions, yet given a distinctly radical 21st-century twist of content. To illustrate this aspect of his art, the exhibition includes a group of original photographs by the artist Thomas Eakins (1844–1914) and his circle, which Fischl has referenced, and at times quoted, in his work. 

This exhibition explores the making of painting as well as the conceptual underpinnings of the artist’s narrative. It offers visitors a profound, insider’s understanding of the process of painting and of the careful act of looking.  

Dive Deep: Eric Fischl and the Process of Painting is organized by the San Jose Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

Eric Fischl Interview

"Dive Deep" Blog on Tumblr

Read Jodi Throckmorton’s “Dive Deep” blog on Tumblr.
Dive Deep—Eric Fischl’s Use of Photoshop (January 11, 2013)

Eric Fischl Audio Podcast

The audio recording of the sold-out Creative Minds conversation with Eric Fischl in October is now available as a free podcast. Download from iTunes here

Dive Deep Catalogue Now Available

The lavishly illustrated catalogue for Dive Deep features a revealing interview with the artist.

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