Born 1893, Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine; died 1968
Janet Sobel was born in the Ukraine and her work was championed by surrealists André Breton and Max Ernst, as well as by philosopher John Dewey and gallerist Sidney Janis. In time, she became a powerful presence in the New York art world. Peggy Guggenheim featured her work in the exhibition The Women in 1945 and gave her a solo show the following year, where critic Clement Greenberg and Jackson Pollock first saw her work. Greenberg acknowledges Pollock’s artistic debt to Sobel. She also evolved a drip technique thought to have inspired Pollock. Somewhat reminiscent of the paintings of Marc Chagal, but “ sturdier and less sentimental,” according to critic Edward M. Gómez, her representational paintings feature a blend of primitivist figuration, floral motifs and a brilliant sense of color. Her work is included in, among others, the collections of the American Folk Art Museum (New York), the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Wash D.C.), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles), the Museum of Modern Art (New York), and the Whitney Museum of American Art (New York). Sobel’s was most recently exhibited in “Women in Abstraction” at the Centre Pompidou (2021), “Outliers and American Vanguard Art” at the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2018), and in “Abstract Expressionism” at the Royal Academy of Arts, London (2016).
SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
Janet Sobel: All-Over, The Menil Collection, Houston, TX
Janet Sobel: Wartime, The Ukrainian Museum, New York
Janet Sobel, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York
James Barron at Outsider Art Fair, James Barron Art, Kent, CT
Janet Sobel: Revisiting the Drip, James Barron Art, Kent, CT
Janet Sobel: Drip Paintings and Selected Works on Paper, Gary Snyder/Project Space, New York
Janet Sobel, D.C. Moore, New York
Janet Sobel: Selected Works from the Artist's Estate, Gary Snyder Fine Art, New York
Janet Sobel Paintings and Drawings, Swain's Art Store, Plainfield, New Jersey
Janet Sobel, Puma Gallery, New York
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Action, Gesture, Paint: Women Artists and Global Abstraction 1940-70, Whitechapel Gallery, London
Women in Abstraction, curated by Christine Macel and Karolina Lewandowska, Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; traveling exhibition to the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Spain
Figure Out: Abstraction in Self-Taught Art, Outsider Art Fair New York, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
To Be Human: The Figure in Self-Taught Art, Outsider Art Fair New York, Hirschl & Adler, New York, NY
An Alternative Canon: Art Dealers Collecting Outsider Art, curated by Paul Laster, Andrew Edlin Gallery, New York, NY
Miami Art Basel, Andrew Edlin Gallery, Miami Beach, FL
Outliers and American Vanguard Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
The Museum of Everything, The Museum of Old and New Art, Australia
Paper, James Barron Art, Kent, Connecticut
The Time Is N♀w: Women Artists at Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York
Abstract Expressionism, curated by David Anfam, Royal Academy of Arts, London
Faces and Figures in Self-Taught Art, The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York
In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women in Mexico and the United States, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Approaching Abstraction, American Folk Art Museum, New York
Beyond the Canon, Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning and American Art, 1940-1976, Jewish Museum, New York
Suitcase Paintings: Small Scale Abstract Expressionism, Baruch College, New York
Pre-Post: American Abstraction, Greenberg Van Doren, New York
Faces Come Out in the Rain, Gary Snyder Fine Art, New York
Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, 1940-1960, traveling exhibition, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; 2002, San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego; 2002, Walker Art Center, Minneappolis
American Modernism: 1930s & 1940s Abstraction, David Findlay Jr. Inc, New York
Ukraine Roots, American Visions, Residence of the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Kiev
Artist's Choice: Elizabeth Murrary: Modern Women, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Abstract Expressionism: Other Dimensions - An Introduction to Small Scale Painterly Abstraction in America, 1940-1965, traveling exhibition, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, New Brunswick (New Jersey); Whitney Museum of Art at Phillip Morris, New York; Terra Museum of American Art, Chicago; Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables
Peggy Guggenheim's Other Legacy, curated by Melvin P. Lader and Fred Licht, traveling exhibition, Peggy Guggenheim, Venice; Solomon R. Guggenheim, New York
American Women Artists Part I: 20th Century Pioneers, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
Recent Acquisitions: Paintings and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York
Personal Statement: Painting Prophecy, David Porter Gallery, Washington, D.C.
The 140th Annual Exhibition of Painting and Sculpture, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia
Art of This Century, Peggy Guggenheim Gallery, New York
Abstract and Surrealist Art in the United States, curated by Sidney Janis, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
American Folk Art Museum, New York
Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, OH
Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, Philadelphia
San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Levin, Gail, "Janet Sobel: Primitivist, Surrealist, and Abstract Expressionist," Woman's Art Journal 26, no. 1, Spring/Summer 2005.
Sobel, Janet and Gail Levin, Inside Out: Selected Works by Janet Sobel, Gary Snyder Fine Art, New York, 2003.
Smith, Roberta, "Art in Review: Janet Sobel," New York Times, February 15, 2002.
Goldberg, Deborah A., "Janet Sobel," American National Biography, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999.
Conaty, Siobhan M., Art of This Century: The Women, exhibition catalogue, Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, 1997.
Wechsler, Jeffrey, Abstract Expressionism: Other Dimension; An Introduction to Small Scale Painterly Abstraction in America, 1940-1965, exhibition catalogue, Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers, State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, 1989.
Guggenheim, Peggy, Out of This Century" Confessions of an Art Addict, forward by Gore Vidal, introduction by Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Universe Books, New York, 1979.
Art of This Century, exhibition catalogue with preface by Sidney Janis, Peggy Guggenheim Gallery, New York, 1946.
Janet Sobel, exhibition cataloge with essay by John Dewey, Puma Gallery, New York.