WRITTEN BY DEVELOPMENT INTERN SARAH JACKSON
Born in Boston, Massachusetts on May 18, 1938, Janet Fish was raised on the island of Bermuda and came from a family of artists. Her grandfather, Clark Vorhees, was an American Impressionist painter, while her father was an art history teacher, and her mother, Florence Whistler Fish, was a sculptor and potter. Fish knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue the visual arts. She was talented in ceramics, having access to her mother’s kiln, and initially intended to be a sculptor.
She eventually attended Smith College, in Northampton, Massachusetts, where she studied sculpture and printmaking. Later, she enrolled at Yale University School of Art, where she attended from 1960 to 1963. It was while at Yale that Fish decided to change her major from sculpture to painting. Unfortunately, at Yale her realistic approach wasn’t always encouraged. Fish felt that Abstract Expressionism, which is what was being taught at Yale, had little meaning to her. Instead, she was influenced by California painters David Park and Richard Diebenkorn, whose work offered a fresher approach to painting.
Although Fish largely rejected Abstract Expressionism, some of its principles, such as boldness and smooth, flowing brush strokes, influenced her work. Fish is known for her dramatic, still life paintings, where the objects themselves are not the primary players. Rather, the colors and light effects of her works create movement throughout the composition. The arrangement, which takes several days to finalize, reveals her interest in juxtapositions.
Janet Fish became one of the first women to earn a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale’s School of Art and Architecture. She has been an art instructor at the School of Visual Arts, Parsons School of Design, Syracuse University, and the University of Chicago. Fish resides and paints, in her SoHo, New York City loft and her Vermont farm house in Middletown Springs.
Today, the Museum celebrates her birthday by inviting visitors to view her painting After a Wedding, in the Stein Gallery.