Here is a remarkable woman I would like more people to know about: the painter Sylvia Fein. She turns 100 next month and has a survey show of her work made over a 70-year period at the The UC Berkeley Art Museum. (It’s been called “the show of the season” for the Bay Area, and I’m planning on getting tickets to fly out and see one or more of her talks.)
Here is a short bio from the BAMPFA site:
Sylvia Fein, who turns 100 in 2019, was born and raised in Wisconsin, where she attended college with another woman who would go on to become a legendary Bay Area centenarian, Anna Halprin. In the early 1940s Fein was among a group of artists based in Madison and Milwaukee who became known as the Midwest Surrealists. After living in Mexico for several years during World War II, Fein moved to the East Bay in 1947; she received an MFA at UC Berkeley in 1951. For decades, her painting has been strongly influenced by the highly detailed style of Northern Renaissance painters such as Hieronymus Bosch and by the fourteenth-century medium of egg tempera, which endows her works with a distinctive texture and transparent quality.
Perhaps ironically, I first became aware of Fein’s work through the books she wrote when she decided to take a break painting: Heidi’s Horse and First Drawings. (These books have had a big influence on me: I wrote a little bit about them last year in the post “Caveman Drawings,” and I’m going to write more about Heidi’s Horse tomorrow.)
Here is a piece of hers from 2012, called The Painting Told Me What To Do:
And here is a 20-minute documentary from six years ago called in which Fein talks about her life and work: