“In Isabel Bishop’s paintings the ambiguity of space matches the ambiguity of content; the form and the content are one, mutually interdependent, with the form liberating the content, and the content determining the form. The prosaic figures are poetic; the deep space is mysteriously shallow; the solid forms are translucent; what moves is also stationary. She is a painter of paradox.
Bishop’s art transfigures the present into the permanent. Perpetually new, the cycle of human existence and desires is a revolving mirror connecting the past with the present. Of the moment and not of the moment. Isabel Bishop remains continually contemporary. The integrity and stead- fastness of her vision have produced a personal, contemplative art that has profound meaning for an uncontemplative time. It remains for those who look at paintings to watch carefully as the truths this artist has to tell are slowly unfolded.“
– Karl Lunde
“Bishop used a laborious process of preparation for a painting. First, the masonite panel was treated with as many as eight coats of gesso, front and back. She borrowed a technique used by Rubens and painted a ground of random horizontal gray stripes made up of gelatin, powdered charcoal, and white lead, thus creating the transparent, vibrating surface she needed for her concept of figures in a weblike, mobile environment. The drawing was then added in pencil or ink and black or umber tempera. Then varnish was applied over it. Tone upon tone was then overlaid on this tacky ground, the striped underpainting remaining visible through the layers of oil. In some cases, to further balance light and shadow, Bishop applied fine random horizontal and vertical lines, that look almost like stitching, on the surface of the finished paintings. Enlarged photostats of the etchings, tacked to the easel, held Bishop to her original ‘metaphor’, the visionary spark that had set the painting off in her mind.”
“Cezanne once said his aim was to make Impressionism as solid and durable as the art of museums. In her own way, Isabel Bishop has sought and found a comparable solidity with a comparable independence of means. Her people have a moving, inward quality, although that may be a subjective response on my part. Beyond argument is their monumental existence–in terms of both humanity and art.”
– John I.H. Baur
The Relevance of Interlude
Isabel Bishop worked so slowly it sometimes took her a year to complete a painting. She is estimated to have finished less than two hundred artworks during her distinguished career which spanned seven decades. New York City’s prestigious Midtown Galleries, Bishop’s longtime dealer, struggled to assemble one or two shows of her work per decade due to the limited number of paintings she produced.
Interlude is a well-known and extensively exhibited example of Bishop’s artistic output. This piece was included in three monographs on the artist. It was part of her first retrospective, exhibition held in 1974, which traveled to the University of Arizona, Wichita State University, The Whitney Museum of Art, and Brooks Memorial Gallery. In 1985 it was part of a second retrospective exhibition on Bishop was held at Loyola Marymount Museum. Interlude was also featured in a 1988 Bishop exhibition at the Ogunquit Museum in Maine.