Jane Freilicher (November 29, 1924 – December 9, 2014) was an American representational painter of urban and country scenes from her homes in lower Manhattan and Water Mill, Long Island. She was a member of the informal New York School beginning in the 1950s, and a muse to several of its poets and writers.
Freilicher was at the center of a milieu of important New York painters and poets, including painters Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Fairfield Porter, Larry Rivers, and poets of the New York School including John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara and James Schuyler. Along with Frankenthaler, Hartigan, Mitchell, and Nell Blaine, she was among only a handful of women artists who were exhibiting alongside their male counterparts.
In 1996 she was awarded the Annual Academy of the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award from the Guild Hall Museum in East Hampton, New York.
She earned her Bachelor of Art degree from Brooklyn College and an M.A. from Teachers College at Columbia University. She then studied with Meyer Schapiro and Hans Hofmann and married a jazz musician through whom she met the free-spirited and artistically talented Nell Blaine. Freilicher took informal classes from her and became part of Blaines social group that included Larry Rivers and occasionally Jack Kerouac.
But Freilicher tired of pure abstraction, asserting that quite often the underlying material emanating from the subconscious was dull material. She found more challenge in realism and had fourteen solo exhibitions at the Tibor de Nagy Gallery. Her realism has been called gestural realism because she tries to capture the movement of the moment to create a sensual experience for the viewer.
Many of her subjects are fields and waterscenes from her Long Island summer home at Watermill, but she is also challenged by the irregular geometry of New York City architecture.
In the 1950s she became part of an informal circle of writers and artists called the New York School. She was featured in Mounting Tension, a 1950 film by Rudy Burckhardt in which John Ashbery and Larry Rivers fight for her affections. James Schuyler wrote Presenting Jane, in one scene she walked on water. In A Terrestrial Cuckoo O'Hara describes his dream of paddling down a jungle river with her, one of many poems he wrote about her.
Freilicher was a catalytic and consequential presence. She not only forged close friendships with this group of poets, she also served as a muse. They also regularly sought her advice for poems in progress. O'Hara wrote among his most celebrated series of poems about the artists which weaves her name into the titles. Ashbery and O’Hara both dedicated several books to her.
Her friends and fellow artists included Larry Rivers, Grace Hartigan and Fairfield Porter. Hartigan, Nell Blaine and Helen Frankenthaler also exhibited at Tibor de Nagy Gallery.
Freilicher's papers, including poetry and photographs, of her relationship with New York School writers and artists are now owned by the Houghton Library of Harvard University.
1974 - American Association of University Women Fellowship