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Janet Fish (American, b.1938)

Paintings

Also known as:  Fish, Janet I.

Birth Place: Boston (Suffolk county, Massachusetts, United States)

Biography:

Who is painter Janet Fish?

Janet Fish is an American painter whose realistic still life paintings are renowned for bringing life to otherwise mundane scenes of American life. These paintings are well regarded for Fish’s ability to paint reflective surfaces and patterns of light through partially filled glassware. Though her subjects may seem mundane at first glance, Fish’s ability to communicate emotional depth through her still life paintings has made her an extremely in-demand artist and instructor since she burst onto the art scene in the 1960s. Her rejection of the Abstract Expressionist movement that was common during her youth led to the development of her extreme photorealist aesthetic.

This trailblazing attitude has served Fish well in her career as an artist and instructor. She was famously the art instructor at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons The New School for Design in New York City, at Syracuse University, and the University of Chicago. Her work has been praised by The New York Times, with critic Vincent Katz once saying that Fish’s career led to the “revitalization of the still-life genre” which up to that point had been considered the lowest form of objective painting. She has received a MacDowell Fellowship three times, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and won a Smith College Medal in 2012. Her pieces appear in the collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to name a few.

What kind of art does Janet Fish make?

Janet Fish makes photorealist still life paintings, often depicting everyday objects. Her work centers on how light plays and bounces off reflective surfaces -- things like plastic wrap or bowls of water often feature prominently. Her amazing technique and vision have helped Fish bring back the popularity of still life paintings, which had fallen out of favor by the 1960s. Fish saw her photorealist paintings as an act of rebellion. She said, “Abstract Expressionism didn’t mean anything to me. It was a set of rules.” As such, Fish was free from the constraints put on other painters of the time, allowing her to develop into a truly unique and one-of-a-kind artist who is able to find the artistic value in even the most common subjects. Her pieces are now routinely studied at the best art institutions in the world, and Fish herself has become a valued teacher and member of the art world.

How did painter Janet Fish get started?

Janet Fish was born on May 18th, 1938 in Boston, Massachusetts, but moved to Bermuda when she was only ten years old. Her father was a professor of art history and her mother was a sculptor. Fish came from a long line of artists, including her grandfather, the Impressionist painter, Clark Voorhees and her aunt who was a prominent painter in the Boston art community. Fish was encouraged from a young age to pursue art. Her first job (while still a teenager) was as a studio assistant to the sculptor Byllee Lang. Fish attended college at Smith College where she majored in sculpture and printmaking. She spent one summer studying at the Art Students League of New York, then followed it with a summer residency at the Skowhegan School of Art. Fish received her MFA from the Yale University School of Art and Architecture in 1963, where she changed her focus from sculpture to painting. This change would also represent her shift from Abstract Expressionism to Photorealism, a shift that would define the rest of Fish’s career.

How much are Janet Fish paintings worth?

Janet Fish paintings can be worth anywhere from $2,000 for a minor work to upwards of $100,000 for a major painting. The most ever paid for a Janet Fish painting at auction is $134,500 for the piece Honey Jars (1971) which sold on September 25th, 2010. This was $100,000 more than its high estimate, though it is by no means an outlier for Fish’s work. She has several paintings that have sold for over $100,000. Fish is one of America’s great photorealist painters, her paintings reflect that value.

Where to buy Janet Fish paintings for sale?

See works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Janet Fish paintings?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services department.


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