Ethel Schwabacher

Abstract Expressionist painter Ethel Schwabacher started her art education in sculpture. In 1923, after her apprenticeship in stone carving with the sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington, Schwabacher abandoned sculpture in 1927 and enrolled in Max Weber’s painting class at the Art Students League. That year she met Arshile Gorky, with whom she developed a life lasting friendship. Gorky’s surrealistic-inspired imaginary, biomorphic abstractions and erotic forms drawn from his unconsciousness fascinated Schwabacher and she became interested in exploring her own psyche. The paintings from this period combine automatism with abstract forms, referring to nature. Through the 50’s, Schwabacher developed the interconnected themes of womanhood, childbirth and children. Following the death of her husband, Wolf, in 1951, the topics of loss, anxiety, loneliness and separation infiltrated her work. During those painful years Schwabacher’s abstract paintings were searching through the personal traumas, remembered experiences and fear of isolation. She passed away in 1984.


Schwabacher was represented for many years and had solo shows at the well-known Betty Parsons Gallery. Her works are found in major museum collections throughout the world. 


Courtesy of Anita Shapolsky

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