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  • Writer's pictureDavid Eichholtz

Sonia Gechtoff: The Japanese Inspired Garden Paintings

In the late 1980s and early 90s, Abstract Expressionist painter, Sonia Gechtoff used her iconic gestural strokes with bold hues and drawing on the painted surface with graphite to compose landscape and garden paintings inspired by Japanese gardens and artists. Most notably, Gechtoff drew inspiration from Utagawa Hiroshige (b. 1797 - d. 1858), the Japanese ukiyo-e artist who was best known for One Hundred Famous Views of Edo, a vertically oriented series of landscapes, and The Fifty-three Stations of the Tōkaidō, a horizontally oriented series of landscapes.  John Yau noted in his critical review in Hyperallergic (A Forgotten Painter and Her Visionary Abstraction, October 12, 2019) of these and other paintings from this same period:  “In the later paintings, all of which are done in either acrylic or acrylic and graphite (another of her innovations), Gechtoff pursued the implications of her earlier work by introducing architectural elements (portals suggesting a desirable elsewhere to be attained), as well as iconic presences (celestial orbs), into her representations of a consuming natural force (think tornadoes and flames). To these concerns, she added a love of mountainous landscapes and Japanese art, particularly of Hiroshige, whom she acknowledges in the largely red and blue, “Hiroshige Revisited” (1988), which recalled the use of vermillion and Prussian blue in 18th– and 19th-century Japanese woodcuts." The full review by John Yau is available at this link: David Richard Gallery is the exclusive representative of the Sonia Gechtoff Estate.

Sonia Gechtoff Hiroshige Revisited 2, 1989 Acrylic and Graphite on canvas  55 x 39"

Sonia Gechtoff Hiroshige Revisited, 1988 Acrylic and Graphite on canvas  58.25 x 40.5"

Sonia Gechtoff Streamers 1, 1989 Acrylic and graphite on canvas  45.5 x 31.5"

Sonia Gechtoff Streamers 2, 1989 Acrylic and graphite on canvas  45.5 x 31.5"

To View The Exhibition Referenced in The Hyperallergic Review:  SONIA GECHTOFF  Forces of Nature on the Grand Stage: Paintings from 1988 to 1995

Please use this link: About Sonia Gechtoff: Sonia Gechtoff, was born and raised in Philadelphia. After graduating in 1950 from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, she moved to San Francisco in 1951 where she was greatly influenced by the painting of Clyfford Still. She taught at the California School of Fine Art working alongside Hassel Smith and Elmer Bischoff and associated with other Bay Area Abstract Expressionist painters such as Madeleine Diamond, Lilly Fenichel, Deborah Remington, Jay DeFeo and James Kelly (who she later married). San Francisco had a tremendous impact on Gechtoff, she was very much involved in the unique cultural scene and felt the local support. It is where she had her greatest career achievements, such as developing her bold use of the palette knife to create long, sharp strokes of pigment across the canvas and the corresponding early recognition with solo exhibitions at the San Francisco Museum of Art (currently SFMoMA) and De Young Museum. Gechtoff moved to New York in 1958 and worked there until she passed away in early 2018. Given her interests in figuration, architecture, landscape and earth elements, representational elements became more prevalent in her paintings and drawings, while abstraction and gestural brush strokes remained constant. She switched from oil to acrylic paint and traded the palette knife for graphite to maintain strong defining strokes and boundaries in her work. Gechtoff’s artworks are included in the permanent collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; Achenbach Foundation, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco; Denver Art Museum, Colorado; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Academy of Design, New York; Oakland Museum of Art, California; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, California; Museum of Art, Stanford University, Palo Alto, California; and Worcester Museum of Art, Massachusetts, among others. Most recently, her paintings were included in the very important exhibition, Women of Abstract Expressionism at the Denver Museum of Art in 2016 that subsequently traveled to the Mint Museum and the Palm Springs Museum of Art in 2017.

By: David Eichholtz Manager

New York

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