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Item of the Week: Perle Fine Stretches a Canvas

Thu, 04/11/2024 - 12:32

From the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection

When you hear about the midcentury art scene in Springs, the first names that come to mind are likely Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. While they were two of the most recognizable figures to emerge from that milieu, they were not the only ones. Counted among their friends was Perle Fine (1908-1988), a well-respected Abstract Expressionist painter in her own right.

Fine’s New York art scene debut occurred in 1943, when two of her paintings were featured at Peggy Guggenheim’s museum-gallery Art of This Century. For the next decade or so, Fine found great success in the city’s art scene, until she became disillusioned with that world and moved to East Hampton in 1954.

Here Fine split her time between painting and teaching. Between 1954 and 1988, she exhibited her paintings often, both in the city and in local galleries. One such show was at the Upstairs Gallery on Newtown Lane, and a photographer from The East Hampton Star captured Fine at work in her studio as she prepared for it. The photo seen here, part of The Star’s archive, shows the artist stretching a canvas that would appear at the gallery.

Fine was known for her large-scale explorations of space and gesture. Her last major body of work was called the “Accordment Series,” using an obsolete word meaning agreement or reconciliation. She worked on it from the 1960s until shortly before her death in 1988. Given the time period, it is likely the piece she is shown stretching is part of the series. Many of these paintings were composed of grids meant to evoke “sublime orderliness.”

Perle Fine had a lasting effect on abstract painting. Several of her works, including one of the “Accordments,” can be seen at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


Julia Tyson is a librarian and archivist in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.

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