Janet Sobel

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Janet Sobel (1894–1968) was a Ukrainian-American artist whose career started in mid-life and was brief, falling into the shadows of Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock. Some consider her to have originated drip painting.[1]

Early life[edit]

Sobel was born Jennie Lechovsky in 1894 in the Ukraine and arrived at Ellis Island in New York City with her mother and siblings in 1908, at 14. She married at 17 and was 43 years old and a mother of four when she began painting in 1937. She produced both non-objective abstractions and figurative art work.

Career[edit]

Some of her work is curiously related to the so-called "drip paintings" of Jackson Pollock.[2] Peggy Guggenheim included Sobel's work in her The Art of This Century Gallery in 1945. The critic Clement Greenberg, with Jackson Pollock, saw Sobel's work there in 1946,[3] and in his essay " 'American-Type' Painting" cited those works as the first instance of all-over painting he had seen.[4]

Returning to Pollock: one might see how, in his tacit assumption of the position of the woman—the decentered and the voiceless, the one who flows uncontrollably, the one who figures the void and the unconscious—he remained on some level, a man using his masculine authority to appropriate a feminine space. In fact, one woman had tried to articulate that space before Pollock did, in a similar way—not Krasner but Janet Sobel, who made poured, all-over compositions that unmistakably made an impact on Pollock. Greenberg recalls,Pollock (and I myself) admired [Sobel's] pictures rather furtively" at the Art of This Century gallery in 1944; "The effect—and it was the first really 'all-over' one that I had ever seen…—was strangely pleasing. Later on, Pollock admitted that these pictures had made an impression on him." When Sobel is mentioned at all in accounts of Pollock's development, however, she is generally described and so discredited as a "housewife," or amateur, a stratagem that preserves Pollock's status as the unique progenitor, both mother and father of his art, a figure overflowing not only with semen but with amniotic fluid.[5]

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