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Ethel K. Schwabacher
The Rock
oil on canvas
Canvas: 78 × 65 inches (198.1 × 165.1 cm)Framed: 78 1/2 × 65 1/2 × 1 1/2 inches (199.4 × 166.4 × 3.8 cm)
Credit Line
Gift of Christopher C. Schwabacher and Brenda S. Webster.
Accession Number
Ethel Schwabacher’s visual language was a combination of emotional, lyric, and automatic sources, steeped in nature and deeply personal. She explored themes such as womanhood, childbirth, nature, and Greek mythology and was influenced by poetry. While Schwabacher sympathized with urges to express the unconscious mind similar to establishment, often male, Abstract Expressionist painters during her lifetime, she deemed their work anti-human and hostile to women—in particular Willem de Kooning’s Woman series from the 1950s.

Schwabacher called her style the “lyric/epic,” and described her artistic process as a lifelong search for “the place where”—the point of maximum concentration and energy on the canvas. The Rock is an example of Schwabacher’s mature abstract style, and she was highly regarded for her expert and formal use of composition and color. Warm tones define her work from this period, and this painting demonstrates her facility with both bold composition and striking color.

Schwabacher’s artistic mentor and close friend Arshile Gorky was a noted Abstract Expressionist who introduced her to surrealism and automatism; she became his first biographer after his death in 1948.

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Savannah, GA 31412
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