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Double Date Delayed No. 1

On view

Double Date Delayed No. 1

Artist: Isabel Bishop (American, 1902 - 1988)

Date: 1948
Medium: Oil on Masonite
Overall: 22 3/16 x 18 3/16in. (56.4 x 46.2cm)
Framed: 32 1/2 × 28 1/2 × 4 1/2in. (82.6 × 72.4 × 11.4cm)
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 50.14
Text Entries

Isabel Bishop’s women understand each other. In Double Date Delayed No. 1 they are engrossed in conversation (reassuring each other perhaps?) as to the reason for the tardiness of the second man. The rather stoic man pictured here plays no part in the action and, in effect, removes himself from the conversation as the two women assess the situation and decide on strategy.

Bishop’s women are the shop girls of Union Square, portrayed in everyday life situations by the artist who spent over fifty years of her life recording men and women with painstaking care and empathy. These women may be the daughters of poor immigrants, but they are portrayed as independent, self-assured people whose horizons are limited only by their pluck and talents. In reference to her often expressed search for mobility in her work, Bishop has said: “I want to show that these young women can move, not just physically but also in their own lives. I have seen them do it.”(1)

Bishop’s two main concerns are movement and mobility, and she cites Rubens, Rembrandt, and Fragonard as among her favorite artists. She says: “I try to limit content in order to get down to something in my work.” Her method is slow and painstaking, with only a few works completed within a year. She usually proceeds from drawings to etchings to paintings, asking at each stage: “Is it so?” By this statement she is questioning whether or not the image holds true to the initial impression which had first attracted her attention. The work must answer back to her at each stage before she continues to explore its potential.

Isabel Bishop’s goal is that the entire painting create a “seamless web,” a fusion of figure and ground. She achieves this not only through composition and carefully built-up forms, but also through her shimmery light and transparent color, which allows part of the white ground to show through. Color in Double Date Delayed No. I is typically subdued, as she blends hazy blues, greens, and earth tones, and then refocuses the viewer’s attention on key areas by the impeccable craftsmanship of her sure line. She allows only a suggestion of architectural background, keeping her subjects close to the viewer. Typically, Bishop gives us an unsentimentalized, unidealized portrayal of her figures.

The daughter of scholars, Isabel Bishop came to New York in 1918 and studied at the Art Students League with Kenneth Hayes Miller. Her close friends were Reginald Marsh and Guy Pene du Bois. By 1927 she left Miller to begin her own personal search for what she considers the essential and universal in art. She began a happy and lifelong relationship with Midtown Galleries in New York City with her first solo exhibition in 1933. Her paintings and graphics are owned by museums, colleges, universities, and private collectors throughout the world. She has received many awards and won much recognition from the public and among her peers, including being nominated the first woman officer of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

Mary Sweeney Ellett



1. All statements by Isabel Bishop are from interviews conducted by the author on February 2, 1985 and January 24, 1986, as well as in telephone conversations with the artist.

© Estate of Isabel Bishop